Dam these Concrete Blocks for Electricity

Discussion in '[H]ard|OCP Front Page News' started by Kyle_Bennett, Sep 25, 2018.

  1. Kyle_Bennett

    Kyle_Bennett El Chingón Staff Member

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    These dam blocks can store electricity kinda like a damn dam. Blame Wrecked Em.

    Check out the video.

    A concrete “battery” could be the future of energy storage. Energy Vault, a Swiss startup, has created a way to store electricity in concrete blocks. The technology helps use solar power when sun doesn't shine and wind power when the wind doesn't blow. It's a low-tech alternative to lithium-ion batteries.

    There’s been a lot of progress in renewable energy with solar and wind power, but renewable energy storage remains a challenge. Energy Vault’s idea is similar to hydroelectric power, but instead of using water and dams, it uses concrete blocks and cranes. The low-cost, low-tech solution is proof that some of the answers to our energy-storage problems may be hiding in plain sight.
     
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  2. Tsumi

    Tsumi [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Not a bad idea at all. I still like the liquid sodium solar plant as a means of baseline power though.
     
  3. d8lock

    d8lock Gawd

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    Now what will convenience stores attach their bathroom key to? Does seem pretty neat though.
     
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  4. clockdogg

    clockdogg Gawd

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    Sure...but can you build a wall with them?
     
  5. Joust

    Joust [H]ard|Gawd

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    It's an idea. I hope it is successful. It'd require a lot of these to equal to a pumped hydro facility though.
     
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  6. cdabc123

    cdabc123 2[H]4U

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    Crains are not effecent. I honestly cannot see how this would be a benefit compared to pumping water. And if there was that much energy potential why hasn't humanity ever pushed boulders off a cliff for energy
     
  7. Oldmodder

    Oldmodder Limp Gawd

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    Vestas just upgraded their current offshore wind turbine V164 to 10 Mw, making them the first 2 digit Mw turbines to go up.
    But We Danes could use a means of storage, though i think the new Amazon / google / facetwitt and who not data centers going up here will eat all of our renewable energy, making us more dirty again with out oil / gas / bio / coal power and heating plants.
     
  8. Elios

    Elios [H]ardness Supreme

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    if your going to do that much as well make it liquid fuel nuclear since the real issue the high temp salt for both and nuclear works in the north east
     
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  9. Mohonri

    Mohonri [H]ardness Supreme

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    I'd like to see some efficiency and density numbers, because this idea will stink at both. Heck, even cost-wise it'd be pretty expensive (concrete ain't that cheap).

    I've heard of hydroelectric dams pumping water up into the reservoir when electricity is super cheap, and I seem to remember it being about 80% efficient.

    If you can come up with an energy storage solution that is efficient, cheap, and can store a LOT of energy, it'll go a long way towards reducing the inherent issues with renewables.
     
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  10. lostin3d

    lostin3d [H]ard|Gawd

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    I agree it's an interesting idea. I live in a mostly desert type terrain where hydro isn't a real consideration. Solar is obvious as is some wind. On that note, though, winds here can get strong enough to topple those piles like a house of cards. If the energy conversion ratio is good enough these still have a lot of potential.

    Thanks for posting this. Things like this give me hope.
     
  11. Kvhr36m31

    Kvhr36m31 n00bie

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    Would seem a lot cheaper to fill the barrels with sand. Also, making concrete is a process that in itself creates a massive amount of carbon emissions. Would be interesting to see what they can do when they start ironing out some of the wrinkles.
     
  12. Paul_Johnson

    Paul_Johnson [H] PSU Editor & Admin Staff Member

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    I always like when it is the toilet paper roll. Classy joints those are.
     
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  13. Stoly

    Stoly [H]ardness Supreme

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    Simple physics say you won't be able to recoup the energy used to stack the piles. That plus the energy used to manuever the crane.
     
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  14. Master_shake_

    Master_shake_ Little Bitch

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    look i'm charging a battery with an alternator being turned by a motor powered by a battery that's turning a motor that turns an alternator that charges a battery that turns a motor that turns an alternator that charges a battery that turns a motor that turns an alternator that charges a battery that turns a motor that turns an alternator that charges a battery
     
  15. Tsumi

    Tsumi [H]ardForum Junkie

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    There is no form of energy storage that is 100% efficient. We do need energy storage that can be widely implemented at reasonable cost if green energy is going to get anywhere. In the end, it will be what gives the best storage/$.
     
  16. Poseur

    Poseur Limp Gawd

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    I like compressed air storage. Then you can filter the air as it's compressed (removing some larger pollutants and dust). You might be able to somehow collect and use the water vapor too. Heating and cooling too? Lots of options there.

    The crane thing isn't terrible. Seems kind of stupid to stack them on top of each other, instead of moving them up and down a mountain or cliff face.
     
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  17. arnemetis

    arnemetis 2[H]4U

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    No of course not. This is an attempt to try and store some energy made during the day, for use later when it's no longer being produced in excess. The problem is if during the day you create x amount of energy, but only use 3/5 of that energy, the rest is wasted. In this manner, at least some of the energy can be recouped later. An interesting idea, surely it can be refined.
     
  18. mullet

    mullet [H]ard|Gawd

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    Just give this kid a chance.

     
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  19. Nobu

    Nobu 2[H]4U

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    Iow, they're using the blocks' pure potential energy as a means of energy storage? Not a bad idea, though I'd think an elevator connected to some efficient electric motors capable of regeneration would be a better solution than cranes...

    And then, while you were at it, might as well use some super dense liquid so that it takes up less space and you don't have to manufacture blocks...
     
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  20. Eickst

    Eickst [H]ard|Gawd

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    Kinetic energy storage is not new, plenty of places do this already, been around for 100 years or more. Pumped hydro is the largest type of storage used, and they are 70ish percent efficient.

    If you're pumping with excess solar during the day and recouping it at night it's not a bad system at all.
     
  21. Laowai

    Laowai Limp Gawd

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    Safe.
    Reliable.
    Clean.
    Inexpensive.

    Yup!

    But...NIMBY! /s
     
  22. seanreisk

    seanreisk Gawd

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    It's not quite right. But the idea is compelling ... The trick is the efficiency in recreating the stack.

    A more interesting idea is basing the 'crane' on the highest point that has a reasonable water source, then filling the barrels and lowering them to the lowest point that reconnects to the same water source. The barrels wouldn't need to go down a vertical drop, it could be similar to a cable car system. This would be a damn without a damn.

    <strokey beard moment> ....


    P.S. As noted below, there is some sarcasm here.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2018
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  23. sfsuphysics

    sfsuphysics I don't get it

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    Ok, so just to run some numbers, they claim 20 megawatt-hours of power, that translates to 72 billion joules. They claim their next gen crane can lift 35 metric tons, and should build a tower 120 meters tall. However on average the blocks will be at a height of 60 meters, so to do that you need to make a tower that has 3500 concrete blocks that way 35 metric tons each, and that's with a 100% efficient conversion of energy, if you take a best guess of 50% efficiency, you lose half the power raising the blocks, and another half lowering them and getting the energy out, so that's actually 14000 concrete blocks at 35 metric tons. Yeah... I call bullshit on this.
     
  24. cdabc123

    cdabc123 2[H]4U

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    or ya know just a long tube with a turbine at the bottom...
     
  25. theBrownLlama

    theBrownLlama Gawd

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    old concept.

    ppl has been using spare power to flood and pump unused mines

    so long as battery storage is expensive, there is always wasted energy. someone would just be as smart as installing a mining farm to use the wasted power...
     
  26. rudy

    rudy [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Imagine if you made a barrel that could hold sand and it was strong enough to do so, then you stacked hundreds on top of each other. I would think the weight would crush them. Concrete on the other hand self supports once cured, you can stack and stack and stack. I imagine the engineers thought of this.
    Also yes there is energy in making concrete but you only have to make them once and they can be stacked over and over probably thousands of times.


    They said that part of the reason for doing this is cause some people don't have water features to do hydroelectric, and just the same some people aren't going to have a cliff near by to move them up to. The simple beauty of this system is the only thing strong enough to hold hundreds or thousands of concrete blocks that cost almost nothing is the concrete blocks themselves. I am sure if someone is in a mountainous region they could improve efficiency by doing the same thing but moving them up a steep incline or cliff.

    Once again the video mentioned that many people do not have water sources or cannot afford to hold the water up in this. Also concrete is more dense than water. If you have water you use a hydroelectric system and just use pumps and tubes no need for buckets.
     
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  27. Nobu

    Nobu 2[H]4U

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    Pumps and tubes have a lot of losses in efficiency unless they're engineered correctly, especially because the load can very throughout the process of pumping the fluid. If you instead stored the fluid (or blocks) on a sled (or crane as in this case) and used an electric motor and gears (or cables, or belts, whatever ends up being the most cost-effective solution) to lift and lower the load, it would remain (nearly) constant throughout the operation, and you could tune the motor to match the load for optimum efficiency.
     
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  28. seanreisk

    seanreisk Gawd

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    Sorry, came home from a birthday party, I'm just a little bit drunk. 'Damn without a damn' (instead of 'dam') is from my hateful physics days, my old physics professor was a specialist in hydro and hydrostatic systems and would lecture endlessly on various levels of viscosity hell, and I carry those scars even today. If he was alive and you said, "tubes and turbines" Kyle would have to lock this thread.

    Note: Nobu just said it better than I would have. I'm drunk enough that I thought I might have seen a soapbox.


    P.S. Seriously, at the end of my only year of college physics I couldn't tell you the amount of calories in a burned piece of paper or the kinetic state of a kilogram of lead orbiting the sun, but I could tell you everything about the glass of beer you just drank, from the moment you ordered it until the moment it arrived at the sewage treatment facility. Almost everyone flunked that class. I got a grade that looked like a 'C' but smelled like a 'D' and I took it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2018
  29. Ski

    Ski Gawd

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    I'm having a difficult time processing this, can anyone break down what's going on in a more digestible form? Thanks.
     
  30. Nobu

    Nobu 2[H]4U

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    Hydroelectric dams often have times where there is excess water stored in the reservoir, but the electrical demand isn't enough to warrant generating power with that water, so it ends up being dumped instead. They also have times when there is very little water and they cannot keep up with demand (in which case they buy electricity from other sources and/or have rolling blackouts).

    This "battery" is an attempt to solve (or at least alleviate) that problem by using the excess water (or air, or wind) to generate electricity which will power a crane to stack very heavy blocks in a tower (thereby storing that potential energy; you could consider it equal to whatever energy was used in the process of lifting the blocks, before losses in efficiency). When demand is high but the elements aren't cooperating, the blocks may then be unstacked, and the energy from lowering the blocks can then be released back into the system (think regenerative braking).

    Edit: It's somewhat important to note here: the size or number of blocks (other than for capacity) isn't really important. What's important in such a system is the amount of energy used when lifting, and how high you lift. That is what will determine the amount of (potential) energy "stored". Of course, using fewer, larger blocks would probably be more efficient than many smaller blocks.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2018
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  31. Uvaman2

    Uvaman2 2[H]4U

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    Its not April yet is it?
     
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  32. Ski

    Ski Gawd

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    Ah that last part of storing and releasing that extra potential makes it clear now. I guess the only question now is finding a more productive use of collecting that energy other than storing the blocks, like maybe having an actual function. Thanks for making it more understandable.
     
  33. seanreisk

    seanreisk Gawd

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    It's actually an interesting problem. Lost energy is a huge problem for hydroelectric systems (dams). People need energy in the winter and the summer, but the dams have the least amount of energy during those periods. The dams have their most energy during the spring and their second-best in the fall, but the demand for electricity is lowest at those times. A dam is supposed to be a form of battery, in that it can fill to its fullest point when water flow is high but demand is low, and then empty itself when demand is high but water flow is low. But the public hates the look of a half-empty dam, and here in the Northwest the fish runs dictate how much a dam can afford to store, which also affects how much it is allowed to 'burn' during its energy generation phase.

    The total energy available doesn't change much from year to year. But the demand cycle doesn't match the availability cycle, and we don't have good ways to store the energy for later.

    Piling cans wouldn't be a good solution for a dam, but it's an idea that makes you think. Ideas are fertile, they make other ideas.
     
  34. Tweak42

    Tweak42 Gawd

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    Interesting concept, highly doubt it's even practical. This is more along the lines of a scholarly exercise for engineering students.

    I would put more stock in flywheel energy storage as an non battery alternative. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flywheel_energy_storage
     
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  35. c3k

    c3k [H]ard|Gawd

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    Talk to Sweden. That bridge you guys have between your countries would be a great starting point for a dam. Seal off the Baltic and use it as an energy reservoir. For shipping, stick some locks somewhere. (Or trans-ship...with CRANES...for energy. ;) )

    If Sweden won't play ball, Norway is right there.

    Think big! :)
     
  36. M76

    M76 [H]ardness Supreme

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    There are better implementations of the same principle. Just use a cart and a slope. If there is excess energy the cart is dragged up the slope, if energy is needed the cart is lowered driving the generator. Just on one molehill you can have a dozen carts of different weights or gradients.

    Using a crane seems complicated, and if you stack the blocks, then only the one at the top will have full energy capacity, the ones under it will be wasted. Not to mention you can't provide continuous energy, and can't really control output.
     
  37. Prisoner849

    Prisoner849 Gawd

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    Think of how much power we could save by just dropping those blocks on people.
     
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  38. MrDeaf

    MrDeaf Limp Gawd

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    There might be some space considerations with a slope, vs. vertical storage.
     
  39. cptnjarhead

    cptnjarhead Crossfit Fast Walk Champion Runnerup

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    Would have been a lot easier to follow had they shown the blocks being stacked first... i didnt even notice them until the end...kept thinking.. what blocks?.. lol
     
  40. DrBorg

    DrBorg Gawd

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    This is crazy inefficient.

    Electric motors make poor generators and vice versa; they're not built the same.

    At a dam, you could use excess water flow to do the lifting with an elevator type concept; fill the empty elevator with water for the lift; and jack in a purpose-built generator to make power later by lowering a group of blocks with the elevator.

    The losses would be much less, mostly frictional, and moving the blocks into out of the elevator.

    Pumping water is probably more efficient, IF you have a bunch of water. :)

    This is a good idea for storing excess solar so it can be used when we need it; that's going to be a bigger issue as we go on.