A group of English engineers have built an advanced heat pump and connected it to an energy storage system using two silos full of plain old gravel that they say is as cheap as pumped hydro, as location-agnostic as a battery - and is super efficient. Using the heat pump as the key, the team built an energy storage system that compresses argon gas to produce a temperature differential and deposits heat and cold into two separate large silos of gravel. Energy is stored in the gravel and when the process is reversed, it can be released.
The contracts secure 1,310 megawatts of solar thermal power from seven projects, the first of which - a 110MW installation in Ivanpah, California - is slated to be online by 2012. Construction is set to begin in "about six months, following approval from the California Energy Commission and the Bureau of Land Management," says BrightSource chief executive John Woolard in an interview published on PG&E's Web site.
General Electric has announced that it plans to build a new battery factory in upstate New York with an "initial investment" of $100 million and additional funds requested under the stimulus package. First up for the New York plant, if all of the financing comes through: batteries for hybrid freight trains. It's looking at providing energy storage devices for other applications including utilities, telecoms and load leveling for the smart grid. At full capacity, the new plant is designed to produce 10 million battery cells, or about 900 MW-hours of energy storage per year.
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