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Cheap Energy Storage Solution Uses Rails and Rocks

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rocks.jpg.662x0_q70_crop-scaleTo store renewable energy all we need is rocks, shipping containers and rails, according to the guys behind ARES Technology.

Renewable energy sector is growing with an incredible speed. Bigger and better wind and solar farms emerge continuously, and their capacity increases tremendously. Home-based renewable energy is also continuously growing, with more and more home owners rushing to invest in solar panels and boilers.

However, the main issue remains, and that is energy storage. As great as they are, renewable energy sources do not work continuously, making them often quite risky and unreliable.

Therefore it makes sense that huge investments go towards developing high-tech energy storage systems. And while we are still waiting for that major breakthrough in this field, something new, often based on existing technologies, always manages to attract attention- one example is the Powerwall from Tesla.

Now, why is it that everyone thinks new technology has to be expensive and  just be out there to admire until one day most of us are able to afford it? ARES, a start-up based in Santa Barbara, has decided to put an end to all this pricey solutions and show everyone that energy storage does not need to be high-tech, full of toxic or expensive chemicals in order to work.

Meet ARES Technology– the Advanced Rail Energy Storage project. It is simple, cheap, highly efficient and highly promising. Here are the details.

ARES Technology is really nothing that fancy. All it needs is a few shipping containers full of rocks, a hill, some rails and electric motors. The project is truly remarkable just because it is so simple, yet sustainable and fully functioning. A train, consisting of shipping containers full of rocks, will use excess renewable energy to go uphill. When energy is needed back into the system, the train should just be let go down hill. The electrical motors then turn into electricity generators.
Approved by the Bureau of Land Management, ARES project has set the target to build a facility in Nevada, with a capacity of 50 megawatts, and ability to produce 12.5 megawatt hours of electricity by 2019.

Of course, there are some limitations that need to be taken into account, such as the space that is required. To put this in numbers, a rail energy storage system with 50 MW capacity would need an 8-kilometer long track. In addition, the train composition should consist of 32 containers/vehicles, and each should weigh 300 tons.

The guys at ARES are humble and they do admit that their system is not as fast as the high-tech expensive batteries. However, the capital costs are much lower, and the cars and rocks to not detoriate in time.

Nice, ah? Looking forward to seeing this technology put into practice.

Image (C) ARES

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