Mark Swinnerton, CEO of Green Gravity, tells us how sustainability and energy storage can co-exist using existing infrastructure.
Scalable and Economical Energy Storage
Meet Economical Energy and learn about their technology that utilizes gravity and underground conveyors to provide grid stability.
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In the ever-evolving world of renewable energy storage, innovations are consistently driving us toward a more sustainable future. One such innovation is 'Economical Energy', a startup founded by Matthew Forrest, aiming to deploy the mature materials handling equipment into an energy storage system that provides grid stability.
Understanding the Technology
Economical Energy employs an innovative approach to storing energy. It utilizes gravity and underground conveyors similar to those seen in the mining industry. By leveraging a system like a wind turbine, energy is stored by coupling low RPM equipment with a gearbox. This translates the output from a few RPMs to a few thousand RPMs on the generator side. At its core, while the technology might seem intricate, it essentially remains standard engineering.
However, what makes the innovation interesting is its dual functionality. Not only does this system present a novel energy storage solution, but it also has the potential for enhanced materials handling. The conveyors, pivotal in the process, are not just designed for energy storage but also have potential applications in the mining industry. Economical Energy's proprietary manufacturing methods reinforce the conveyors to manage the unique structural loads seen in operations.
Application and Scaling
The Economical Energy storage solution is tailored for utility-scale deployments. The initial rollout will integrate with existing underground lines, starting with a capacity of around five megawatts. Upon validation at this scale, standalone projects could be launched close to existing energy transmission infrastructures or renewable generation assets like wind or solar farms. The scale would then elevate, taking into consideration, the costs associated with constructing access tunnels deep underground, settling at a commercial benchmark of about 150 megawatts.
Given the modular nature of the system, it offers scalability. As the market demand expands, more systems can be incorporated into the existing infrastructure, provided there's adequate footprint. This modularity also streamlines the manufacturing and assembly processes, enabling cost savings and efficiency improvements.
System Strength: A Unique Selling Proposition
For the uninitiated, 'system strength' pertains to the stability of transmission and distribution grids. It deals with the impedance or resistance of transmission lines and their generation sources. High system strength implies that during a grid fault, there's minimal distortion in the waveform. Conversely, low system strength can lead to significant disruptions, especially for grid-following inverters like those in wind and solar generation.
Economical Energy employs synchronous motor generators, sidestepping the issues faced by inverters. These generators, like those coupled with gas and steam turbines, offer significant system strength, crucial for the stability of grids, especially in regions with high renewable energy deployments. A prominent case in point is South Australia, where the grid has witnessed improvements in system strength, thanks in part to technologies similar to what Economical Energy proposes.
Accomplishments and Future Outlook
Since its conceptualization in 2019, Economical Energy has made significant progress. After a successful pre-seed funding round in 2021, the company has been gearing up for a commercial pilot. The preliminary deployment is expected to be in an underground mine in South Australia, providing a vertical elevation of about 250 meters. Even at this early stage, Matt estimates the capital cost of storage to be competitive with mainstream home battery solutions.
With increasing renewable energy penetration into grids, the need for efficient storage solutions becomes paramount. As Matt explained through insightful market analyses, as renewable energy deployment rises, so does the variability in prices, opening avenues for storage solutions like Economical Energy to capitalize on this arbitrage opportunity.
As the renewable energy landscape evolves, solutions like Economical Energy are positioned to contribute to the energy transition, ensuring grid stability while efficiently storing energy for when it's needed most.
We extend our gratitude to Matthew Forrest for his participation in this webinar and for providing valuable insights into Economical Energy's technology system. For more in-depth information on the topic and our guest company, please enjoy the full webinar video available here.
Want to know more about it and navigate the energy transition with energy storage systems? Schedule a quick call with us!