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50 MW Rail Energy Storage Project Receives BLM Approval

The Bureau of Land Management has given approval for a right-of-way lease to Advanced Rail Energy Storage for a commercial-scale rail energy storage project on 106 acres of public lands in southern Nevada. “ARES Nevada will be a world-class facility and a point of pride for Nevada. The power production is clean and renewable – operation of the project requires no water or fossil fuel, and creates no hazardous waste or emissions,” explained Jim Kelly, the ARES CEO.

rail tracksThe 50 MW project is intended to help stabilize the grid in terms of voltage and frequency. (The number of megawatt hours does not appear to have been reported about, but a page on the ARES site says a 100 MW project could have 200 MWh.)

If the project proceeds, during the 8-month construction phase a minimum of 100 local jobs could be created, with 16 full-time positions required to operate the storage facility once it is fully operational. Six sets of trains would be used on 5.5 miles of rails for the project.

The rail energy project is expected to have a use life of 40 years or more, once it is completed.

If you are familiar with pumped hydro storage, you understand the basic concept of rail energy storage too, which uses electric locomotives and train cars on rails, instead of moving water up and down to turn turbines. When there is excess electricity created by solar and wind power or when electricity rates are at their cheapest, the rail energy technology can be used to drive locomotives up hill with cars behind them. Once they are in an elevated position, the cars can be released back down the slope so their generators produce electricity during periods when solar or wind power are less productive or unproductive.

ARES says the capital cost for its rail energy storage technology is about 60% of that for pumped hydro.

One advantage of using rail energy storage is that it uses existing technology. Obviously rails, locomotives, train cars and electricity generators have existed for a long time and are proven, so they do not need to be invented or iterated over and over again to be used for energy storage in the manner of pumped hydro.

The manufacturers of the rails, locomotives and train cars play a role in the development of rail energy storage and can benefit by being able to sell their products to the developers.

Image Credit: DJ Sturm, Creative Commons, Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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