SoftBank to invest $110m in brick tower energy storage start-up

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Series B Energy Vault funding marks first time Vision Fund 1 has invested in sector

SoftBank Vision Fund will invest $110m into an energy storage start-up, Energy Vault, that plans to build huge brick towers that can store energy, marking the Vision Fund’s first foray into the fast-growing storage sector.

The Lugano-based start-up said it would use the funding to pursue a rapid global deployment strategy, simultaneously building commercial-scale projects on four continents.

The Series B funding of Energy Vault marks the first time the $97bn SoftBank Vision Fund 1 has invested in energy storage, although renewable energy has long been a key area for the broader SoftBank Group.

Energy Vault’s storage system uses a crane to lift heavy bricks into a tower formation, with machine vision and algorithms to operate the crane.

When excess power is on the grid, for example from renewable energy on a very windy or sunny day, that power can be used to stack up the giant bricks — which weigh 35 tonnes each. Then when power is needed, the crane lowers bricks back down to the ground using the force of gravity to generate electricity.

Energy Vault has a one-quarter-scale pilot tower in Switzerland that became operational last year, and will complete a demonstration unit in northern Italy by the end of this year.

“The beauty of the Energy Vault solution lies in its simplicity,” said Akshay Naheta, managing partner for Emea at the SoftBank Vision Fund. “It’s like what we all learned in fifth-grade science, you can convert one form of energy into another very easily.”

Energy storage is seen as one of the main technological bottlenecks that is holding back the deployment of renewable energy worldwide. Current systems such as lithium ion batteries or pumped hydro storage are, respectively, too expensive and too geographically limited to be deployed on a large scale.

Robert Piconi, chief executive of Energy Vault, said the funding would help the company construct projects on four continents where it has commercial agreements already in place.

“We will be able to do multi-continent deployment concurrently,” said Mr Piconi. “When we launched in November 2018, the demand was so overwhelming and there was no region I could single out, it was across every continent.”

He emphasised that the energy towers can be a cost-efficient way of storing power, because the giant bricks can be constructed from local materials such as compressed soil combined with a special sealant produced by Cemex.

The Vision Fund will take a seat on the board of Energy Vault, and SoftBank is the sole participant in the series B round. Previous investors in the start-up include Cemex, the global cement company.

SoftBank will be a customer of Energy Vault, Mr Naheta said, without disclosing any details.

Energy Vault is also building a tower for the Tata Power company that will have a peak power delivery of 4MW and storage capacity of 35 megawatt-hours.

Tower Of Power: $110 Million Investment Primes Energy Vault To Take On Global Energy Storage Markets

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Energy storage company Energy Vault announced today a $110 million dollar investment from Japan’s SoftBank Vision Fund. This investment will set the company on the path to accelerating its development of large energy storage projects with its unique gravity-assisted technology.

If you haven’t heard of Energy Vault, in part that’s because they only recently announced themselves at last year’s Energy Storage North America Conference in November and have maintained a relatively low profile since then. CEO and Co-Founder Robert Piconi noted that this measured PR strategy to date has been deliberate, commenting, “we only announce things when they are very significant.”

An increasing profile in an electric industry hungry for storage

That low profile may be about to change though, even as the entire energy storage market has significantly increased its presence in 2019. In recent months, the news from the storage industry has ramped up significantly. Eye-popping projects have recently been announced, such as 8minute’s agreement with Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to supply 200 megawatts (MW) of solar energy at under $20 per MWh, combined with energy storage with 100 MW of four hours of battery storage for an additional $13 per MWh. We have seen other recent announcements of large battery storage projects, some as big as NextEra’s Manatee Solar/Storage undertaking involving 409 MW and 900 megawatt-hours (MWh) and a 495 MW energy storage project from Intersect Power that may be developed Texas.

However, these projects utilize lithium ion batteries, and are typically limited to relatively short durations, storing and shifting no more than four hours of intermittent renewable energy to periods when it is most needed.

By contrast, Piconi notes that the Energy Vault system is capable of delivering energy for far longer periods. To understand this crucial difference, one has to first understand lithium ion batteries, and then appreciate the logic of Energy Vault’s approach.

First, let’s address the batteries: To oversimplify, it’s perhaps best to think of lithium ion batteries as Lego-type building blocks with fixed ratios of energy relative to capacity. If one needs capacity (a quick release of energy), as if you were stacking the blocks vertically, and shortening the timeframe. By contrast, if one wants a longer release of energy (capacity over a longer timeframe) one would line the blocks up horizontally. Thus, for example, if you have four MWh of batteries, you could use them to get four MWs of capacity for one hour or one MW of capacity for four hours. At today’s prices, if you need lots of energy – say eight or 10 hours – a lithium ion system is simply too cost-prohibitive.

Enervault’s tower of power (and energy)

Energy Vault does not suffer from such limitations. The company’s technology combines a nearly 500-foot tower (the height of a 35 story building) with machine vision software controlling cranes, pulleys, and cables to raise or lower huge composite bricks. If the bricks are being elevated, energy is being pulled from the grid. If the bricks are being lowered, they deliver energy and/or capacity back to the grid. (There is perhaps no better way to understand how this works than to view the company’s remarkable and futuristic-feeling video). As one increases the net quantity of bricks that are moved up or down over a given duration, one stores or releases corresponding amounts of energy.

This approach allows the company to take on the challenge of long-term energy storage, which until now has largely been the realm of pumped hydro systems with large reservoirs. However, few pumped hydro facilities are being built anymore, since they can cost as much as $1 billion dollars, involve lengthy environmental permitting processes, and take years to build. Another emerging potential competitor for longer duration storage is cryogenic storage (liquid air), such as Highview Power, which recently announced a partnerships with Tenaskato develop giga-watt scale projects in the U.S. However, its round-trip efficiency (the energy lost in the process of absorbing and then releasing energy back to the grid) is roughly 60%, compared with Energy Vault’s, which stands at between 80% and 90%.

The bricks themselves are modular, and can be manipulated individually, with multiple cranes and pulleys moving numerous blocks at the same time. As a consequence, the Energy Vault system can ramp quickly and deliver (or absorb) large amounts of capacity and longer-term energy, depending on the need. The system is remarkably fast: According to Piconi, it can ramp from zero to 4 MW in 2.9 seconds, and is nearly linear in its delivery profile, providing milli-second response, and the delivering the first 1.3 MW in one second. The standard 35 MWh system is also relatively large, combining a tower of 150 to 160 meters with 6,000 to 7,000 bricks that each weighing 35 metric tons.

Piconi sees Energy Vault’s ability to easily value stack (tap into different revenue streams) as one of its chief differentiators, and notes that the services offered range from black start (bringing the grid back online in the event of an outage), to shorter term grid balancing services or providing 8 to 10 hours of back-up energy to help firm up intermittent renewable energy offerings.

The bricks are foundational

The pulleys, cranes, and motors are off-the-shelf equipment. The software that autonomously interacts with the grid, receives the market signal, and notifies the system which blocks to raise or lower, and for how long, is custom-designed and highly sophisticated.

However, the true secret sauce may lie in the recipe for the massive bricks. Early in the development process, Piconi’s team soon recognized that it would be too expensive to use normal concrete. Enter Mexican cement and building materials manufacturer CEMEX, (it coincidentally has its R&D and Innovation center headquartered in Switzerland) which reached out to Energy Vault when news of the company started to spread.

CEMEX’s material science team had already developed technology to make road pavement and other material composites from basic soil and other simple input materials, and the two companies began to collaborate to develop a new material that would be lightweight, durable (lasting 30 or more years), inexpensive and capable of incorporating multiple waste materials, such as used debris concrete, coal ash, industrial slag, and even the local site soil. CEMEX then focused its materials science group to successfully develop a solution that would meet those criteria for a new energy storage application. As a result, Energy Vault may not only get paid for grid services but also for incorporating waste materials into future projects, absorbing material that would otherwise have to be landfilled.

Where SoftBank’s investment will go

The $110 million Series B funding round will allow the company to develop projects that follow on the heels of its existing quarter-scale demonstration installation in Switzerland. The initial project, which has been functioning since July 2018, has allowed the company to refine the software that controls the system, test the durability of the composite bricks, and improve overall efficiencies in order to provide a cost-effective storage solution.

Piconi says the company is now satisfied it has a technology that works, at a price the market wants, “We knew we needed to be around three to four cents levelized cost per kWh ($30 – $40 per MWh) to add to PV or wind in order to be competitive below fossil. This took a lot of innovation.” The result is a storage technology that when combined with renewables can undercut conventional natural gas-fired generation.

Piconi indicated the global response to the technology has been “overwhelming,” with interest coming from numerous prospects, including developers, utilities, and corporates on multiple continents. Energy Vault is evaluating longer-term relationships and contractual obligations and Piconi notes that when the time comes, “we will be announcing some joint and individual partnerships.”

Piconi notes that Energy Vault’s first full-scale demonstration project is expected to come online in northern Italy by the end of 2019, with other projects to follow in 2020. The infusion of capital enables Energy Vault “to really go global and scale the company at a much faster pace, with concurrent multi-continent deployments…We’ve got something interesting and sustainable. We believe it will help with the transformation the world needs.”

Massive Softbank Fund Bets on Using Blocks as Batteries

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SoftBank Group Corp.’s massive Vision Fund is making its first-ever energy storage bet — and it’s on a rather unconventional type of battery.

The fund, created by Japanese tech giant SoftBank Group Corp., is investing $110 million in Energy Vault, a Swiss startup that’s using cranes and concrete to store energy. An electric crane hoists up blocks of concrete and stacks them into a tower when power is plentiful. When power is needed, it uses gravity to take the structure apart brick by brick. The weight of the descending blocks converts kinetic energy into electricity.

The startup faces stiff competition. Huge lithium-ion batteries have emerged as the storage of choice for utilities looking to deal with short-term fluctuations on their grids. The costs of those have plunged 85% since 2010. Entrepreneurs have long pitched alternatives that can hold more energy and supply for longer — including ones that compress and liquify air and split and store hydrogen, but none have taken off the way lithium-ion has.

Softbank’s $100 billion Vision Fund is betting on the need for more affordable and bigger storage systems to expand the use of renewable power and wean the world off fossil fuels. Even as the price of wind and solar plummets, they remain intermittent, supplying electricity to the grid at some times and not others. Unlocking a cheap way to bottle up clean power and dispatch it at will could change everything.

Click here for a video explaining how Energy Vault’s system works.

Energy Vault uses the same principle that’s long been employed by pumped-hydro storage dams, which use huge reservoirs and gravity to store energy and generate power. SoftBank is convinced the tower concept can scale quickly, with the systems installed next to existing solar power plants or wind farms.

“The minute you have one solar power plant with these towers up and running, we think the scalability goes through the roof,” Akshay Naheta, managing partner for SoftBank Investment Advisers, said in an interview.

He estimates the system can be deployed for 15% of the price of a similarly-sized lithium-ion battery installation. SoftBank itself will become one of Energy Vault’s customers and is installing one of the systems at an undisclosed location, Naheta said. Energy Vault also is building a demonstration plant in Italy and a plant for India’s Tata Power Company Ltd.

Robert Piconi, Energy Vault’s co-founder and chief executive officer, said the technology will allow wind and solar facilities to supply electricity to the grid 24 hours per day, undercutting the costs of fossil fuel plants. Grid-scale lithium-ion battery packs, in contrast, typically deliver power for just four hours.

“We’re solving a problem that, today, there’s just not a lot of answers for,” Piconi said.

One advantage is that Energy Vault’s technology can be installed almost anywhere, unlike pumped-hydro systems that need at least two massive reservoirs at different elevations to work. That said, Piconi does not expect Energy Vault’s concrete towers to sprout in urban centers, where the aesthetics may not be appreciated.

“Obviously, this is not something that’s going to fit in the middle of a city,” he said.

Vision Fund makes $110 million bet on renewable energy storage

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LONDON (Reuters) – Softbank Group’s (9984.T) Vision Fund has made its first foray into energy storage technology with a $110 million investment in Switzerland-based Energy Vault.

While many countries are keen to use renewable energy as part of efforts to cut carbon emissions in the fight against climate change, the challenge has been to find a way to store it for later use, particularly overnight or when demand surges.

Inspired by the physics and mechanical engineering used in hydro plants, Energy Vault says its technology enables renewable energy to be stored in 35-ton bricks and delivered as baseload power for less than the cost of fossil fuels at any hour of the day.

Most rival solutions focus on some form of battery storage, be it lithium ion, sodium-sulphur, lead-acid, among others. While costs have been falling – by nearly 40% since 2015 according to Wood Mackenzie – most degrade over time.

“Energy Vault solves a long-standing and complex problem of how to store renewable energy at scale,” Akshay Naheta, managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, said in a statement on Thursday, announcing Vision Fund’s $110 million investment. “Energy Vault is highly complementary to SoftBank’s existing energy portfolio and we are pleased to further the company’s global development.”

Energy Vault launched in late 2018 and has already partnered with Mexican materials company CEMEX and India’s The Tata Power Company as it looks to complete a test phase and then build its first commercially functioning site.

Despite normally investing at a later stage in a company’s development, Softbank believed Energy Vault could scale quickly and potentially not need to do a later funding round, hence the drive to take an early stake, Naheta said.

The potential rewards are large. The global energy storage market is expected to reach 22.2 GW in 2023, from nearly 5 GW at the end of 2018, according to a report in May by data and analytics company GlobalData.

Robert Piconi, chief executive and co-founder of Energy Vault, said despite planning to grow the business country by country, the scale of pent-up global demand for a scaleable solution convinced them to move faster.

“The Vision Fund shares our passion to combat climate change through innovation in energy storage technologies and, with its support as a strategic partner, Energy Vault is well positioned to meet the large and currently unmet demand for sustainable and economical energy storage worldwide,” Piconi said.

SoftBank Vision Fund makes its first-ever investment in an energy company

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SoftBank’s Vision Fund announced its first investment in an energy company on Thursday, marking a shift for the $100 billion fund that has made its name pouring money into big tech companies like Uber, WeWork and Slack.

The Vision Fund said it completed a $110 million investment in Swiss start-up Energy Vault, which creates renewable energy storage products. Energy Vault’s system uses recycled concrete blocks built into a tower that can store and release energy.

“For the first time, we’ve got a cost point in economics with energy storage that enables renewables to be deployed below the cost of fossil fuel,” Energy Vault co-founder and CEO Robert Piconi told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” Thursday.

SoftBank’s Vision Fund, which launched in 2017, has disrupted the venture capital model by injecting billions of dollars into start-ups, driving up their valuations. The Fund said last week its operating profit had jumped 66% year-on-year in the last quarter, thanks to valuation increases companies like food delivery platform Doordash and Indian hotel-booking firm Oyo. It said its $66.3 billion investment in 81 tech firms is now worth $82.billion.

The Vision Fund’s portfolio has so far been weighted heavily toward tech companies focused on transportation and logistics like Uber and its Southeast Asian rival Grab, as well as enterprise firms like Slack and “frontier tech” names like British chip designer Arm. In July, SoftBank launched a $108 billion-Vision Fund 2 that will target companies developing artificial intelligence.

Energy Vault did not disclose its valuation as part of the latest investment. Piconi said the funding will be used to help scale the company’s storage technology on a “multi-continent basis.” Andreas Hansson, partner for SoftBank Investment Advisers, will join Energy Vault’s board of directors as part of the investment.

Energy Vault stocke l’énergie dans une grue en béton

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La start-up suisse a imaginé une technologie utilisant la gravité pour stocker l’électricité issue des énergies vertes. Une solution écologique et économique qui séduit les fournisseurs d’énergie du monde entier, au premier rang desquels Tata Power.

Une grue de 120 mètres de haut, constituée d’un empilement de blocs de béton et couronnée de 6 bras déplaçant les briques à des différentes hauteurs. Voilà l’étrange tour que la start-up suisse Energy Vault a imaginée pour résoudre le problème du stockage des énergies renouvelables. Concrètement, lorsque l’électricité est excédentaire sur le réseau, la grue hisse les blocs de 35 tonnes vers le sommet. L’énergie cinétique de ce mouvement est ainsi transformée en énergie potentielle. Quand la demande est supérieure à l’offre, ils sont redescendus à une vitesse d’environ 2,9 m/s alimentant un alternateur qui décharge l’électricité en moins de 3 secondes. Un logiciel basé sur le cloud assure le positionnement des briques, en tenant compte de l’approvisionnement énergétique, de la volatilité de la demande et des conditions météorologiques.

Une « batterie mécanique » capable stocker de l’énergie

« Cette solution, basée sur la gravité, est inspirée des stations de transfert d’énergie par pompage (STEP), explique Robert Piconi, PDG d’Energy Vault. Nous avons voulu reprendre les bénéfices de cette solution, tout en gommant les défauts. » Premier argument de la start-up, la tour Energy Vault peut être construite n’importe où, contrairement aux STEP, installations hydrauliques qui requièrent des différences de dénivelés importantes. Ensuite, elle ne nuit pas à la faune. Enfin, elle affiche des performances plus élevées

D’après la jeune pousse suisse, le rendement de cette technologie serait compris entre 85 et 90 %, contre 70 % pour les STEP. « Nous avons conçu cette solution non seulement pour les particuliers, mais aussi pour les grosses industries, comme les cimenteries », poursuit-il. D’une capacité énergétique de 35 MWh et d’une puissance de crête de 4 MW, ce système présente ainsi l’équivalent de la capacité d’une éolienne de grande puissance. Et d’après ses concepteurs, cette « batterie mécanique » capable de stocker l’énergie pendant 8,5 heures est particulièrement compétitive avec un LCOS (Levelized Cost of Storage) à près de 0,05 dollar par kWh contre 0,17 dollar par kWh pour les STEP, si on inclut les coûts d’exploitation et de maintenance.

Ecologique et économique

Une réduction drastique du coût du stockage qui s’explique notamment par les matériaux. Les briques, fabriquées par l’entreprise de matériaux de construction Cemex, sont constituées de béton recyclé à partir de débris de chantier et de gravier. Le coût est 6 fois inférieur à celui du béton utilisé dans les chantiers. Par ailleurs, la durée de vie de la tour serait de trente à quarante ans. Avec deux avantages sur la batterie lithium-ion : elle ne subit pas d’altération de sa capacité de stockage au fil des ans et elle est plus vertueuse pour l’environnement. Elle affiche, par ailleurs, des coûts de maintenance quasi nuls.

Une solution de stockage durable, respectueuse de l’environnement et bon marché, donc, grâce à laquelle Energy Vault ambitionne de limiter la dépendance des Etats aux énergies fossiles. Mais, cette solution a une limite de taille. Les imposantes dimensions de la tour restreignent les possibilités d’implantation : chaque système nécessite un terrain circulaire de 100 mètres de diamètre. L’opposition potentielle des riverains devrait donc cantonner cette construction massive à des endroits isolés. « Evidemment, elle n’est pas adaptée aux zones résidentielles ou aux centres-villes. En revanche, elle a toute sa place dans les fermes solaires ou éoliennes, ainsi que sur les sites des centrales à charbon, amenées à être fermées dans les années à venir en Europe », souligne Robert Piconi.

Première tour prévue chez Tata Power à l’automne

Après des tests sur un prototype pour valider le bon fonctionnement de l’algorithme, la start-up a annoncé fin 2018 le lancement commercial de la solution. Avec succès. Un premier contrat avec Tata Power, fournisseur numéro un de l’énergie en Inde, a été signé pour la construction d’une première tour à l’automne 2019. « Deux premières unités seront en réalité construites avant, dès l’été, la première au sud de Milan, la seconde en Californie, mais nous n’avons pas encore le droit de divulguer le nom de nos clients », poursuit le PDG d’Energy Vault. Et ce n’est pas tout. La start-up multiplie les prises de contact avec des prospects sur les cinq continents. Au total, quelque 1.500 tours pourraient sortir de terre dans les années à venir« La réponse du marché est supérieure à toutes mes attentes, s’enthousiasme Robert Piconi. Mais pour l’instant, la priorité est la réussite de la construction des deux premières unités. »

SoftBank Vision Fund makes first energy bet

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Swiss startup Energy Vault raises $110m to deploy brick storage towers worldwide

TOKYO — SoftBank Group‘s near $100 billion Vision Fund made its first bet in the energy sector with a $110 million investment in Switzerland-based startup Energy Vault.

The funding will enable Energy Vault to deploy its huge brick energy-storage towers across the world, the company said on Thursday.

“We looked at who can bring a global network to accelerate our deployment, and SoftBank was an easy choice,” said co-founder and CEO Robert Piconi in a phone interview. He declined to comment on the financial terms of the deal.

Earlier investors include the corporate venture capital arm of Mexican cement giant Cemex.

The cost of storing energy is considered a major problem for the renewable energy sector. Founded in 2017, Energy Vault is developing a tower that moves thousands of giant, 35-metric ton bricks to store excess energy.

The company says the system is more affordable and easier to deploy than conventional pumped hydro storage systems.

Energy Vault plans to demonstrate a tower with a 35-megawatt hour storage capacity for the first time during the fourth quarter in Italy, and has agreements with customers in four continents.

SoftBank operates a renewable energy business within and outside Japan. But the deal marks the first time that the Vision Fund — which mainly invests in disruptive artificial intelligence technology — is venturing into the energy sector.

Energy Vault said it is developing machine vision software that enables the towers to operate autonomously.

Government to float tender for gravity storage; foreign firms keen on prospects

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India is planning to float a tender for setting up gravity storage plants, inviting firms with mechanical storage expertise to bid for it. International gravity-based storage companies like EnergyVault, Gravitricity and Gravity Storage Inc have already shown interest.

New Delhi: The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is planning to float a tender inviting companies to set up gravity storage plants in India, a senior ministry official told ETEnergyworld.

A traditional gravity-storage technology for energy storage involves storing potential energy by lifting a large mass of concrete using hydraulic pressure. Electricity is generated by dropping the mass which pushes a large volume of water through a turbine enabling it to rotate. 

Earlier this month, MNRE published a notification on its website inviting preliminary project proposals on gravity storage. The notification was later withdrawn from the website. The official said the earlier notification was aimed at inviting research and development proposals.

“Since it is a well-established technology and there is no need for much research and development, we are planning to come up with a proper tender for gravity storage very soon and anyone with mechanical storage expertise can bid for this tender,” he told ETEnergyworld, asking not to be identified.

India is planning to ramp up its installed renewable energy generation capacity from the current 79,000 Mw to 175,000 MW by 2022. The intermittent nature of solar and wind energy have fueled the need for reliable storage systems.

The energy storage sector in India has traditionally been dominated by pumped-hydro power (PHP) systems where water is pumped and stored at an elevated reservoir. It is then released for generating electricity. Pump storage is a type of gravity storage where water is moved from the upper reservoir to lower reservoir.

India has an installed pumped-hydro power generating capacity of around 5,000 Mw while only around a half of it is operational. These systems typically suffer from issues of land availability and environmental clearance. Other similar storage technologies, like the one that uses movement of large concrete blocks to propel turbines, are currently at the discussion stage globally. 

“Gravity storage is still under commercialization even in other countries. So, we need to wait and see its performance. Although with simulation and modelling it has shown good performance,” said Rahul Walawalkar, executive director at industry body India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA). 

India is poised to become a lucrative market for energy storage on the back of the recent fast transition towards renewables. A few international gravity-based storage firms are already eyeing opportunities in the South Asia region, mainly India, to establish their demonstration plants. 

Switzerland-based energy firm Energy Vault announced an agreement with India’s Tata Power in November last year to deploy its 35 Megawatt-Hour (MwH) gravity-based energy system by 2019. 

Energy Vault’s CEO and co-founder Robert Piconi believes India can be a very attractive market given the rapid deployment of renewables and the need for a longer duration of utility-scale storage to solve issues related to intermittency of wind and solar. 

“The response from the market in India to Energy Vault’s solution has been very strong since we announced the commercial availability of our technology. We have plans to do additional projects here as soon as deployments get into the field phases,” Piconi told ETEnergyworld. 

Commenting on how Energy Vault’s system is different from other gravity storage models, Piconi said: “Our solution does not require a specific land topography, pre-existing structures like mine shafts or underground geology. We can also use waste debris materials like concrete debris, coal ash, high metal content soils that would otherwise have to be landfilled at very high costs and can have a negative impact on the environment.” 

He also claimed that the Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCoE) in the case of Energy Vault’s system works out to around 2-4 cents per Kilowatt Hour, the lowest in the world, making it a perfect solution for India. “When added to the cost of solar Photovoltaic (PV) that is around US$ 0.02-0.03 cents per kWh, you have a total levelised cost of energy of US$ 0.05-0.06 per kWh, which enables you to beat existing and fully amortized fossil fuel plants for the first time.” 

Another company, US-based Gravity Storage Inc, is currently looking for partners to plan and construct a demonstration plant in order to prove the concept‘s viability. “We are looking for partners, locations, and funding for a demonstration plant in one of our key markets – India, USA, China and the Middle East,” CEO Robert Werner said. 

He also said that setting up the demonstration plant will cost around the US$ 10 million for which the company will need government funding. The earliest time for commissioning a demonstrator is 2021 as it takes one year of planning, and one year will be needed for its construction. In the next phase, Werner plans to set up a commercial storage plant of 1-10 GwH capacity at a cost of around $300 million. He said the company is willing to introduce the concept to India and is currently in talks with private companies.

Another company Gravitricity, a UK-based firm that uses rotatory winches instead of hydraulics to store energy, is planning to prove its technology over the next five years while the real expansion will happen only after 2025.

“We lift very heavy weights using electrically-driven winches in underground shafts to charge the system, then lower those weights to discharge, with the motors running as generators. The system uses the same physics as pumped hydro energy storage but instead of using hydraulics we use the direct rotary drive of a winch and cable,” Charlie Blair, managing director, Gravitricity, told ETEnergyworld. 

Blair said that India is a very important geography for mechanical energy storage. “In countries like India, where the grid is expanding, it (the technology) will be built into electricity grids as a part of the infrastructure. Our technology will last more than 50 years, and will have a life cycle of 10 or 100 times as compared to that of lithium-ion batteries,” he added. 

Experts believe that the fast decline in the solar and wind energy costs in India and the exponential rise in storage needs will make the deployment of cost-effective bulk storage systems essential. The global energy storage market is expected to grow to a cumulative 942 GW or 2,857 GWh by 2040, attracting $620 billion in investment over the next 22 years, according to research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Cemex Ventures Invests in Energy Vault to Support Rapid Deployment of Energy Storage Technology Using Concrete Blocks

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MADRID, SPAIN. MAY 16, 2019– CEMEX Ventures, the open innovation and Corporate Venture Capital unit of CEMEX, announced today its investment in Energy Vault, an Idealab company that has developed a transformative technology to store energy. The new investment is further reinforced by plans to support rapid market adoption and deployment of Energy Vault’s technology through CEMEX’s strategic network.

  • Energy Vault’s transformative energy storage technology solves a key challenge for renewables, which have struggled to replace, in a significant manner, fossil fuel power due to production unpredictability and intermittency of wind and sunlight. Consequently, energy storage solutions that can harness energy from renewable sources become vital if cleaner and more sustainable sources of energy are sought.
  • In the absence of longer duration and more cost-effective energy storage, the amount of electricity that can be delivered to the grid from renewable energy sources, even though now widely affordable, has been limited.
  • For the first time, Energy Vault’s system enables renewables to deliver baseload power below the cost of fossil fuels 24 hours a day.

This investment follows a previously announced technology partnership with CEMEX to provide concrete and other composite material technology for Energy Vault’s storage towers.Energy Vault’s breakthrough technology was inspired by pumped hydro plants that rely on the power of gravity and the movement of water to store and discharge electricity. This solution is based on the same well-understood principles of physics and mechanical engineering used in those plants. Energy Vault’s system replaces water with custom made concrete bricks through an innovative use of low-cost materials. The massive bricks are combined with its patented system design and proprietary algorithm-based software to operate a newly designed crane. The crane orchestrates the energy storage tower and electricity charge/discharge while accounting for a variety of factors, including energy supply and demand volatility, weather elements and other variables such as inertia and system deflection.

As a result, Energy Vault can deliver all the benefits of a gravity-based pumped hydro system with lower price, higher round trip efficiency, without the requirement for specific land topographies and negative environmental or wildlife impacts. Importantly, with Energy Vault’s longer duration and more cost-effective energy storage, electricity from renewables can be delivered for less than the price of fossil fuels 24 hours a day for the first time. In April 2019, Energy Vault won the World Changing Idea Award from Fast Companyinthe Energy categoryfor the unprecedented economic and environmental benefits its technology provides.

“Energy storage that enables power to be delivered for less than the cost of fossil fuels is critical as the world shifts away from its reliance on carbon-based fuels to renewable energy,” said Gonzalo Galindo, CEO of CEMEX Ventures. “Energy Vault’s storage technology is transformational, and we’re extremely pleased to broaden our relationship and support the company’s efforts. The investment is also important because it complements the CEMEX R&D partnership and will accelerate our corporate objectives to achieve a carbon-free industrial footprint.”

“CEMEX is akey strategic partner that adds critical innovations in material science that enhance both the economics and longevity of our energy storage system, and we’re thrilled to expand our partnership to welcome CEMEX Ventures as an investor,” said Robert Piconi, chief executive officer and co-founder, Energy Vault. “The combination of CEMEX’s smart concrete solutions, significant global infrastructure and now its strategic investment will accelerate our ability to enable renewable energy to replace fossil fuels 24 hours a day.”

For more information on Energy Vault, please visit

Launched in 2017, CEMEX Ventures focuses on helping overcome the main challenges and capitalizing on the opportunity areas in the construction ecosystem through sustainable solutions. CEMEX Ventures has developed an open collaborative platform to lead the revolution of the construction industry, engaging startups, entrepreneurs, universities, andother stakeholders to tackle the challenges in the construction environment and shape the industry’s future. For more information on CEMEX Ventures, please visit:


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World Changing Ideas 2019: 17 winning solutions that could save the planet

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We’re excited to announce the winners of the 2019 World Changing Ideas awards. World Changing Ideas, now in its third year, celebrates businesses, policies, and nonprofits that are poised help shift society to a more sustainable and more equitable future.

Energy Vault

When a solar farm produces extra electricity during the day, Energy Vault’s giant cranes use that energy to lift and stack 35-metric-ton bricks, storing energy through the elevation gain. When the energy is later needed, software tells the system to lower the bricks, and that spins generators to send electricity back into the grid. The system can respond within a millisecond.