Buildings like huge batteries to store and generate energy: crazy idea or reality?

Buildings like huge batteries: here is the (possible) solution for the future developed by IIASA, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria. It is a concept of energy storage in the urban environment, where demand is set to grow further in the coming years (and the gas crisis we are experiencing is just one of the many aspects to be taken into account). Who knows, maybe it will be of concrete help to the pursuit of the energy independence of buildings desired by the European Union and which sees 2030 as a deadline.

The technology for the production of energy from non-combustible sources is advancing, costs are decreasing. But in order to obtain tangible results capable of slowing down climate change and satisfying world demand, innovative interventions are necessary, such as the one published in the magazine Energy who imagines energy storage in skyscrapers through a solution of gravitational accumulation.

The idea is “simple” and it is called Lift Energy Storage Technology (LEST): they are used to conserve energy lifts and apartments (strictly empty and dedicated to the cause), therefore it is a gravity-based accumulation solution. The authors of the study speak in this case of potential energythat is to say “stored following a change in position“(from National Institute of Nuclear Physics). Julian Hunt, first signing the research, explains that

the concept of energy storage by gravity has recently received considerable attention also in the scientific community and in startups. The concept of LEST came to my mind after spending a lot of time getting on and off an elevator since I recently moved into an apartment on the 14th floor.

LEST stores energy by lifting containers of wet sand (therefore very heavy) or other similar materials which are then transported in and out of the elevators through autonomous systems. The costs, in this case, are extremely low, as they exist in the world “over 18 million elevators“, and most of these could be exploited for the purpose (even the magnetic ones, maybe?). Rather than holding them in place when not in use by people, they could go up to store energy And down to generate itthe researchers explain.

An important aspect to take into account is the cost of power capacity: with LEST the expense is minimized, as it is already installed in those lifts that are equipped with regenerative braking. The global potential of this technology is estimated to be between 30 and 300GWh. Some problems still remain to be solved:

  • where to store the weights both when the system is fully charged (therefore in the upper part of the building) and when it is completely unloaded (in the lower part). Possible solution: in apartments to be kept empty or in dedicated corridors.
  • check if the ceilings can withstand the weight of the system