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Gravity-Based Batteries Try to Beat Their Chemical Cousins

Gravity-Based Batteries Try to Beat Their Chemical Cousins

Gravity-Based Batteries Try to Beat Their Chemical Cousins
Alongside the chilly, steel-gray water of the docks here stands what looks like a naked, four-story elevator shaft—except in place of the elevator is a green, 50-ton iron weight, suspended by steel cables. Little by little, electric motors hoist the weight halfway up the shaft; it is now a giant, gravity-powered battery, storing potential energy that can be released when needed. Reversing direction, the motors become electric generators, sending up to 250 kilowatts of power back to the grid. For peak power, the weight can descend in 11 seconds—but for testing purposes, it moves just a few meters at “creep speed,” says Douglas Hitchcock, project engineer at Scottish startup Gravitricity. The company announced this week that its small-scale demonstrator is now operational, capable of switching between drawing energy from the grid and sending it back in a matter of seconds. The design offers an alternative to the chemical batteries that dominate the global energy storage market—a market that is growing hand in hand with renewable power, which needs to bank energy when the Sun shines or the wind blows, and release it when the grid faces high demand. Gravitricity is one of a handful of gravity-based energy storage companies attempting to improve on an old idea: pumped hydroelectric power storage. Engineers would dam up a reservoir on a hill, pump water to it at times of low demand, and release it to generate electricity. But the systems require specific terrain, expensive infrastructure, and planning approval that is increasingly hard to come by. These days, banking energy usually means hooking up renewable power to giant batteries.
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Sustainability Spotlight: Tony’s Coffee

Sustainability Spotlight: Tony’s Coffee

How did sustainability start for Tony’s? Our sustainability journey can be traced back to 2002, when we began sourcing Organic, Fair Trade, Shade Grown coffee. Since then, we moved to 100% green power, doubled our roasting efficiency, offset our roastery’s carbon footprint, and continue to support causes that we care about. Our commitment to sourcing…

Sustainability Spotlight: Aslan Brewing Company

Sustainability Spotlight: Aslan Brewing Company

Aslan Brewing Company, a member of Sustainable Connections, is based in Bellingham, WA and was founded in 2012. From the beginning, every decision the Aslan founders made was through the lens of sustainability. When Aslan opened its brewpub doors in May of 2014, team members focused on crafting world-class beer with local ingredients and low-impact…

Sustainability Spotlight: Brio Laundry and Cleaners

Sustainability Spotlight: Brio Laundry and Cleaners

Buckminster Fuller once said, “In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete. That, in essence, is the higher service to which we are all being called.” Colleen Unema combined her educator mindset with a…

California testing solar-paneled canals

California testing solar-paneled canals

The Turlock Irrigation District approved a pilot project testing the construction of solar panels over canals in the San Joaquin Valley. Key takeaways: The decision was based on research demonstrating that covering the 4,000 miles of California’s water canals with solar panels could reduce evaporation by as much as 82%, saving up to 63 billion…

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