Innovative energy storage system is designed to harness gravity and weights to provide grid balancing services
Gravitricity's £1m gravity-based energy storage system has moved a step closer towards its first trials in Edinburgh early next year, with assembly of its custom-built winches and control system having begun at a specialist factory in the Czech Republic, the UK start-up revealed yesterday.
The pilot project is aimed at demonstrating how its innovative energy storage system could harness the power of gravity to store energy and provide grid balancing services, by raising multiple weights totalling up to 12,000 tonnes in a deep shaft, which would then be released again when power is required.
The company envisages installing the system underground in disused mines around the world, providing a cost effective form of energy storage that can provide flexibility services to grids that are becoming increasingly reliant on variable renewables.
Gravitricity has raised over £1.5m to help develop the technology through a recent crowdfunding campaign, having also previously won a £640,000 grant from the government's innovation agency Innovate UK.
Yesterday the firm confirmed that a full 16-metre high rig is set to be assembled at the port of Leith in the Scottish capital later this year, with first full testing of the system pencilled in to start in Spring 2021.
It said global winch specialists Huisman had begun fabrication of the 250kW demonstrator system in the Czech Republic, with the winches and control system set to be shipped over to Leith in December. At the same time, engineering firm Kelvin Power is now currently building the lattice tower for the demonstration facility in Leicester.
"Our demonstrator will use two 25-tonnes weights suspended by steel cables," explained Gravitricity's lead engineer Miles Franklin. "In one test we'll drop the weights together to generate full power and verify our speed of response. We calculate we can go from zero to full power in less than a second - which can be extremely valuable in the frequency response and back-up power markets."
The company then plans to run a second test with two single weights to verify smooth energy output over a longer period, followed by several more tests to "refine the full capabilities of the system", added Franklin.
"This two-month test programme will confirm our modelling and give us valuable data for our first full-scale 4MW project which will commence in 2021," he said.
Earlier this year the company also secured £300,000 funding from Innovate UKto assess the suitability of former mine shafts in South Africa for the technology.
The news came on the same day as a report Imperial College London and energy firm Drax highlighted the growing need for energy storage and grid balancing services with its detailing of how the reduced energy demand experienced during the coronavirus lockdown reduced carbon emissions and increased the UK's reliance on renewables, but also resulted in increased pressure on the grid that led to higher than usual grid balancing costs.
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