So Much Gravity to What Terrament Has in Store

A bright leader working towards a more sustainable future.

Under the Department of Energy’s classification, Long Duration Energy Storage is a storage system that can deliver electricity for 10 or more hours in duration. Terrament, a startup founded by Eric Chaves, is centered around a gravity storage technology setting out to hit the Inter-day, 10–36-hour market.

Lithium-ion simply is not able to hit the mark for LDES classification with attractive efficiencies. Pumped storage hydropower (PSH) currently accounts for 96% of all utility-scale energy storage capacity in the United States. However, it requires niche natural locations and diminishing returns are in play; all factors that Terrament’s design dodges.

One might ask what location is best for this kind of technology. The answer was quite surprising in that the entirety of the US other than the southeast (Florida specifically) is fair bedrock-breaking game.  The true factor does not lie in physical possibility, but in discovering and fostering favorable markets. Terrament currently has its eyes locked on California and Texas, with New York breaking into the top three due to its recent actions to accelerate the storage credit.

Breaking bedrock on the scale that Terrament would require is becoming more plausible than ever, as California is seeing first-of-its-kind projects from a company named Hydrostor that deals with compressed air. By digging deep underground approximately one-half mile, they are showing manual drilling is the best practice moving forward. When the project is ready to go in 2028, the underground caverns will have a collective volume equivalent to two football fields! Projects and demonstrations like this are derisking the market around bedrock drilling.

“If we don’t build the storage, wind and solar will start hitting risks and difficulties with threats of blackouts,” says Eric. So, how do we avoid these built environment woes? The answer lies in analyzing the benefits and barriers. LDES can play a central role in energy grid flexibility, specifically the ability to absorb and manage fluctuations in demand and supply by storing energy at times of surplus and releasing it when needed. A study by the New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium, or NY-BEST, in partnership with Quanta Technology found that using ‘storage as a transmission asset’, or SATA, can yield savings for consumers and limit the impacts on land resources and the environment.

Gravity energy storage comes with a very interconnected mixture of benefits and issues. Beyond any technical issues, a plaguing issue is that most economic benefits are viewed as long-term. The current structure of incentives, pricing, and regulations is not well established around the multiple sites of inter-day and other LDES classifications. This ultimately creates a cloud of market uncertainty. Taking this angle, it becomes clear that it is a quasi-stakeholder situation of overcoming technological and regulatory hurdles.

“All of the market regulators are working on the problem—in NY they’re working to pass the Index Storage Credit which will aid in the insurance of energy storage profitability even in times when no storage output occurs,” says Chaves.

The outlook is hopeful. LDES components are all there, ready to be puzzle-pieced together by the bright minds of the energy industry.