Edinburgh firm behind incredible gravity energy storage project hails milestone

An ambitious bid to build a gravity-based energy storage project in Scotland has reached a major milestone as work on a £1 million demonstrator gets underway.

Monday, 31st August 2020, 9:44 am
The Edinburgh-based company has developed a system for storing and releasing energy using winches and weights, totalling up to 12,000 tonnes, in disused mineshafts.

Dutch winch specialist Huisman has begun fabrication work for a key part of Gravitricity’s demonstrator which is expected to come into operation early next year.

The Edinburgh-based company has developed a system for storing and releasing energy using winches and weights – totalling up to 12,000 tonnes – in disused mineshafts.

The 250-kilowatt demonstrator project being built at the Port of Leith will enable the technology to be trialled on a smaller scale initially, using an above-ground structure.

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The custom-built winches and control system for the demonstrator is now being made at a factory in the Czech Republic before being shipped from Rotterdam to Leith.

At the same time, Leicester engineering firm Kelvin Power is producing the tower part of the 16-metre high system which will then be assembled at the Port of Leith ahead of testing due to begin in spring.

The grid-connected demonstrator will use two 25-tonne weights suspended by steel cables. A series of tests will be carried out including ones to see how long it takes the systems to reach full power.

Gravitricity believes that could be in less than a second which would enable the system to provide a valuable role in providing back-up power for the nation’s electricity grid when needed.

The company’s lead engineer Miles Franklin said: “This two-month test programme will confirm our modelling and give us valuable data for our first full-scale four megawatt project which will commence in 2021.

“Huisman are global experts in winches and control systems and it is great to have them as strategic partner for this project and our full-scale system.”

Huisman’s managing director Pepijn Toornstra described Gravitricity’s energy storage system as “unique”.

“It is an excellent addition to our current production portfolio and we hope that it will be a long-term success for both our companies and our contribution to the renewable energy market, the growing importance of which we are convinced,” he said.

Gravitricity recently raised over £1.5m through a crowdfunding campaign and have also received a £640,000 grant from Innovate UK, the UK government’s innovation agency.

Analysts calculate Gravitricity’s system can store energy at half the lifetime cost of lithium-ion batteries.

A number of potential sites for the system have already been identified across Europe.

The company has also been awarded £300,000 from Innovate UK to assess South Africa’s former gold mines for energy storage capability.

Analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates the burgeoning energy storage market will be worth as much as $620 billion globally by 2040.

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