Thanks to Australia’s electric grid, we have seemingly limitless access to electricity whenever we want. However, the electric grid is completely dependent, and only works when electricity is created in the same amounts as it is consumed. The electric grid can’t possibly get the equilibrium right all the time. Therefore, in Australia, with a lot of work, we have a grid that is slightly flexible and can store excess electricity for when production drops or consumption rises. This is not a perfect science as we have seen in South Australia of late where consumption or demand has outweighed production. When the grid is drained, certain places must go without electricity. Rolling blackouts are rare in Australia but are a regular occurrence in many other countries on earth.
Water Will Always Flow Downhill
In 2019, most (close to 97%) of the world’s energy-storage capacity comes in the form of one technology… pumped hydro. It is still almost the only way to store electricity. It is simple physics really… when the electricity generated is greater than the demand at that time, the excess electricity is used to pump water up a dam. When demand exceeds generation, that water can fall thanks to Sir Isaac Newton and his understanding of gravity. The released water turns turbines to produce electricity.
But this method – the method the world relies on, only works in certain places that have access to water and to reservoirs that lay at different altitudes. Australia, unfortunately, is pretty flat. But with the coming of Snowy 2.0, a project Danterr are very passionate about, Australia will become one of the world’s major producers of hydro-electricity. But as of right now, ten countries control most of the world’s hydro power. The trouble is that the world needs to add a lot more energy storage as we continue to add solar and wind power that while both can be ever-so-slightly unreliable if we are taking a pessimistic approach; it is this energy that we will increasingly become reliant on as to ween off our dependence on fossil fuels. We need to add energy to the grid and take energy from the grid somehow without using hydro.
Back to the Basics
After scouring the internet, there looks to be viable alternative to pumped-hydro and it comes in the form of Danterr’s favourite commodity… concrete! Instead of using water and dams, concrete blocks and cranes can be used, and they can be used anywhere. The below is a much watch!
In reality the science is very simple. When a concrete block is lifted against gravity, energy can be stored. When a concrete block is let lower with gravity, you can retrieve that energy. Because concrete is infinitely denser than water, lifting a block of concrete requires – and can, therefore, store a lot more energy than an equal-sized tank of water.
Following the crane arm hooking onto a concrete block, a motor that is powered by excess electricity from the grid kicks in. This motor powers the crane and lifts the block off the ground. The crane can smoothly lift the block, and then place it on top of a stack of blocks higher up off the ground.
In theory, when the grid is running low, the crane’s motors can start again, hook into a block and drop it back to the ground; now, instead of consuming electricity, the motor is driven in reverse by the gravitational energy of lowering a very heavy concrete block and thus generates electricity.
The best part of this revolutionary idea is that concrete is much cheaper than, say, a lithium-ion battery. To make this idea viable hundreds blocks of concrete that are ten’s of tonnes in weight would need to be built, and all could be reinforced with Danterr supplied reinforcing fibers…
Danterr also have access to new green fibres that are much smaller than PP fibres that would reinforce these electricity-producing concrete blocks in an environmentally friendly way.
Buy a Crane
The crane and concrete blocks theory can operate indefinitely with little maintenance and absolutely no reduction in capacity. Danterr can build the concrete blocks with waste or recycled material, as well as our state-of-the-art products. Now all we need is a crane and a cord to plug into the grid!
Meanwhile while the world is out looking for high-tech, futuristic battery innovation, there may be real value in thinking about how to apply the above described low-tech solutions to 21st-century problems. Gravity is our friend. It holds us to the earth, and it might be the answer for unlimited electricity storage.
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