Saturday, March 29, 2014

In Calif. and Nev., Energy Storage Hits the Rails

Heavy going: A pilot project in the foothills of California demonstrates how gravity can store excess electricity. (Credit: ARES) Click to enlarge.
What is over 4 miles long, is full of dirt and has a potential power output of 50 megawatts?

If you're stumped, don't worry -- not many people have heard of energy-storage-by-rail, a concept soon to be launched on the southwestern edge of Nevada. But its architects have high ambitions for a project they say could go a long way toward stabilizing the regional power grid.

Compared to the mechanics of chemical batteries, the idea behind rail storage is simple. During periods of low electricity demand, power is dispatched from the nearby grid to pull a chain of weighted train cars uphill. And there they will sit -- losing no power to degradation -- until the grid has a period of high power demand.  Then they are sent rolling downhill.  Their momentum sends electrons back to the grid through a system of regenerative braking that uses the turning power of the wheels to generate electricity.

In Calif. and Nev., Energy Storage Hits the Rails

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