Cemex Research Group weighs down energy storage venture

Sources: Energy Vault, Lugano, Switzerland; CP staff

Crane-suspended concrete segments, placed in a multi-layered, circular pattern recalling an agricultural stave silo, propel commercial stage technology announced at Energy Storage North America in Pasadena, Calif. The technology is based on what developer Energy Vault describes as the principles that underpin traditional gravity-based pumped hydro plants, combining “conventional physics fundamentals of potential and kinetic energy with a proprietary, cloud-based software platform.”

The latter runs a newly developed, six-boom tower crane and orchestrates trolley positioning of the 35-ton concrete segments to provide the basis for efficient electricity storage and discharge. Energy Vault engineers the system for wind farm installation, where segments are lowered to turn turbines for on-demand power and elevated with excess electricity generated when turbines are idled. Proprietary algorithm-based software calibrates energy storage and subsequent electricity discharge while accounting for power supply, energy demand volatility and weather.

Energy Vault plans a charter installation in India next year, and has additional agreements with system customers on multiple continents. A new technology and commercial partnership with a Swiss subsidiary of Mexico-based Cemex S.A.B. de C.V. will focus on optimization of concrete materials—especially those sourced from construction and demolition waste streams—conducive to segment fabrication and system deployment the world over.

“Energy Vault’s team has developed a disruptive platform, and we are enthusiastic to work with [it] to deploy an environmentally efficient and cost-effective energy storage solution that is highly viable,” says Cemex Global R&D and IP Head Dr. David Zampini. “We share a common commitment to enable a future where resources are used responsibly, which is paramount to Cemex’s strategy for sustainable development.”

“Innovation in energy storage represents the largest and most near term opportunity to accelerate renewable deployments and bring us closer to replacing fossil fuels as the primary source to meet the world’s continual growth in energy demand,” affirms Bill Gross, Energy Vault co-founder and founder of Idealab, the technology incubator from which the energy storage concept emerged. 

“In addition to the vital environmental benefits it provides, the system’s radical reduction in $kWh and overall levelized cost of storage enables customers to provide dispatchable and baseload power cheaper than fossil fuels for the very first time,” adds Energy Vault CEO and co-founder Robert Piconi. “We’re also excited to begin our important collaboration with Cemex whose innovation in material composite technologies and global footprint will help accelerate achieving our collective sustainability goals.”