BHP studies block-stacking crane to store energy

Energy Vault's block-stacking crane (BHP energy)
Image: Energy Vault

BHP will investigate whether a massive, block-stacking crane could be used to store wind and solar energy in the Pilbara as part of its efforts to reduce emissions, according to WA Today.

The company, along with US-Swiss startup Energy Vault, will study the use of new technology that lifts blocks to use surplus energy and later generates power when the blocks are lowered.

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“In 2020 Energy Vault constructed a commercial-sized demonstration unit in Switzerland that had six cranes on a single tower to stack and unstack blocks around the base of the tower. The electric motors that consume electrical energy when lifting the bricks then act as generators when the bricks are lowered, sending power back to the grid,” the report said.

The technology is designed for longer duration storage, ranging from four hours to more than 12 hours.

The initial study will look at sites near the electrical transmission grid that serves BHP’s iron ore operations in north-west WA.

“The study will take a few months, and we will determine next steps from there,” a BHP spokesperson said.

Energy Vault claims their technology does not need large changes in landscape height so is viable in more locations and has less loss between energy stored and energy extracted.

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BHP aims to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from its global operations by 30 per cent this decade. Electricity generation produces about 40 per cent of those emissions and burning diesel emits another 40 per cent.

Read the full report here.