Solar energy is not enough, they want to turn skyscrapers into “batteries”

In recent years, the proportion of renewable energy in people's life has been increasing, and it has gradually shifted from fossil fuels to clean energy such as solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy and water energy. Although renewable energy is good, it also has limitations that cannot be ignored at present, such as energy storage and release.

Researchers at IIASA (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis) in Austria have come up with an ingenious solution for the production and storage of renewable energy – turning skyscrapers in cities into "gravity batteries" for energy storage.

▲ Picture from: Unsplash

Buildings in cities consume about 40% of the world’s electricity. However, there are not many solutions for building power generation. The most common ones are solar power generation and energy storage, but they are also intermittent due to environmental influences, so How to store this energy also has to be considered.

Usually batteries or pumped hydro storage (PHS) may be used to store energy, but there is a way to store energy that is actually "hidden" in these buildings. There are more than 18 million elevators in operation around the world, and many of them are stationary for a significant amount of time. When the elevator is not used to transport people, it can actually be used to store or generate electricity.

▲ Picture from: Unsplash

This solution, called Lift Energy Storage Technology (LEST), is actually a gravity-based storage solution. Energy is stored by lifting heavy objects such as containers filled with wet sand or other high-density materials that are filled in and out of elevators remotely via automated trailer equipment.

This system requires space at the top and bottom of the building, and the LEST connects two storage sites, one at the bottom of the high-rise building (the lower storage site) and the other at the top of the same building (the upper storage site).

▲ Picture from: IIASA

Energy is stored as potential energy by lifting existing elevators in a building from a lower storage location to a higher storage location. Electricity is then generated by lowering the storage vessel from the upper to the lower storage position.

In terms of form, it is similar to pumped hydro, and it is also a form of gravity energy storage. More importantly, in terms of its own generation mechanism, the LEST scheme itself has its own advantages.

Because elevators are already installed in high-rise buildings, it means that there is no need for additional investment or space, but to create additional value from what is already there.

Image from: IIASA

However, this solution also needs to consider the cost of electricity capacity, such as where the heavy objects and robots used to generate and store energy are placed. The idea for the research team is that they could be stored in hallways, in empty apartments or offices, or in dedicated out-of-the-way spaces if the system was planned with the building in mind. medium, such as setting aside half a layer near the top or bottom for later use.

▲ Picture from: "Science Direct"

Plus, they don't have to be too heavy, preventing someone from taking the elevator together. The robot can also be programmed to jump out if a passenger enters the elevator and thus exceeds its carrying capacity. Algorithms can determine the most appropriate time to complete the lift operation and when to access the stored energy, so that the elevator system does not become a nuisance for the occupants.

▲ Picture from: "Science Direct"

In the future, renewable energy power generation may become more and more common, and distributed storage technologies like LEST will become more and more valuable. The methods are flexible, environmentally friendly, and the cost is not high. As a supplement to other power supply systems, it is a choice worthy of consideration and promotion.

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