41. Gravity Power Module Bulk Electricity Storage
Many global regions are seeing rapid growth and require a significant addition of baseload and peaking power generation. New peaking power capacity is an estimated $30 billion annual market, usually met by inefficient, noisy and carbon-emitting gas combustion turbines. Bulk electricity storage is an attractive alternative.
In parallel, many of these regions are adding or planning as a high percentage of their new generation intermittent sources of power such as wind and solar. This introduces reliability issues and significantly increases the need for bulk electricity storage, as renewables are not dispatchable. Pumped storage hydropower, 99% of the world's installed electricity storage, is severely constrained by its lengthy and difficult siting and permitting and by its financing costs. Other forms of electricity storage are not emerging as viable alternatives for these markets, estimated to be in the hundreds of billions USD in size over the next decade.
Gravity Power, LLC was founded in January of 2009 to develop energy storage-based power plants superior to gas combustion turbines and emerging energy storage technologies by providing clean, fast-responding, flexibly-sited and efficient peaking power generation which would at the same time provide storage to assist in enabling intermittent renewable energy generation sources to replace carbon-based generation capacity.
The “Gravity Power Module” (GPM) technology is based on the proven principles of pumped storage hydropower and achieves the same benefits without the classical challenges. The GPM is a patented, in-ground, closed loop and modular system, taking advantage of proven construction methods and equipment and readily available materials. When storing energy from the grid, the GPM uses conventional Francis pump-turbine and motor-generator equipment used in classical pumped storage hydropower plants to hydraulically pump and lift a large piston inside a deep vertical, water-filled shaft. When generating power to the grid, the process is reversed and the piston drops on demand to force water through the turbine. The main piston shaft is connected to a smaller penstock which sees the bi-directional water flow to and from the powerhouse and grid connection near the surface.
The GPM employs cement, steel and other abundantly available materials and proven pumped storage hydropower equipment technology to create power plants with an 80%+ round-trip efficiency. It has far lower land requirements and environmental impact than combustion turbine power plants or pumped storage hydropower. A 1000 MW GPM plant can be built on any three acre site where deep shafts can be excavated and greatly reduces permit delays, start-up costs and time to revenue. No new component factories are needed, unlike battery technology, so it is feasible to start to build tens of thousands of megawatts of new GPM capacity per year in a short period of time. Levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) will be ⅓ to ½ lower than combustion turbine peaking plants in several of the growing markets, and dynamic response will be superior, providing better support for renewable generation.
Unlike traditional pumped storage hydropower, no water reservoirs or mountains are needed, and there is no ongoing water consumption. At our minimum planned shaft depth of 500m, the GPM technology is estimated have an installed cost of less than $1700/kW at 300MW per unit, while the US EIA estimates PSH at up to $5000/kW for a 250MW facility.
With the first GPM commercial demonstration unit comes a business that is cash flow breakeven, with significant value increase possible given the global need. Early demonstration units will supply 40 MW for 4 hours and later units will supply 300 MW or greater for 4 hours or more of storage duration. Gravity Power plans to sell, operate and maintain turnkey plants, and joint venture or license technology in strategic markets. It is working with developers in Germany, Austria, South Africa, the U.S. and elsewhere to initiate commercial installations, the first to be completed in 2016.
The GPM technology and its cost, construction methods and schedules, laid out in a detailed report by Babendererde Engineers of Germany, have been validated and accepted by Hochtief AG, a large German construction firm which is a part of ACS in Spain, the world’s largest construction company. Andritz Hydro GmbH, the world's largest pumped hydropower equipment supplier, has offered to collaborate to supply equipment to GPM power plants. Several global developers and utilities in growing regions are considering the purchase and construction of the first demonstration GPMs.
The management behind the GPM technology includes an accomplised team:
• CEO Tom Mason is a recognized expert in power generation and in gas turbine technology. At Calpine he was Executive Vice President and President of Calpine Power Company, responsible for the largest fleet of gas-fired power plants in the world and the nation's largest geothermal facility.
• Gravity Power Founder and CTO Jim Fiske has 30 years of experience in technology R&D and previously founded Power Ring, LLC, Magtube, Inc., and co-founded Quad Design Technology (acquired by Synopsis).
• EVP Chris Grieco has built startup companies developing renewable energy and advanced power generation systems, in addition to spending 12 years with Ford in engineering and M&A.
• Managing Director of Gravity Power GmbH Horatio von John is a former banker with senior management positions in major German banks and is a specialist for financial structuring.
• Chief Scientist Dr. Jingchun Wu is a leading expert in hydrodynamics and hydraulic system design, formerly with Hitachi.
Why it should be recognized:
The GPM technology can successfully address the global need in growing regions to provide tens of gigawatts of clean, fast-responding, efficient and cost-effective peaking power capacity and bulk electricity storage for renewables. No other emerging electricity storage technology can approach the speed of adoption possible for newly installed GPM capacity nor provide its lasting pumped storage hydropower benefits in many diverse locations. The GPM technology does not require the building of new factories, is environmentally sound and conventional, is supported by an accomplished management team, is patented and has several large corporations involved in power generation and construction interested in supporting its development and commercialization.
Operators of electrical grid systems in which a significant increase of peaking power capacity will be required and a large amount of additional renewables are planned will face challenges ensuring a reliable and efficient system. Choices such as which generation assets they will use to address these challenges will be made. The Gravity Power Module bulk electricity storage technology presents a clear choice.