Rail car power storage facility proposed for Pahrump

At first it seems a bit counter-intuitive, you buy something and then sell back 85 percent of what you bought.

But it begins to make sense when you apply supply-and-demand pricing.

A company called Advanced Rail Energy Storage Nevada, or ARES, has been approved by the Bureau of Land Management to build a 50-megawatt electricity storage facility east of Pahrump that will use gravity-based railroad cars full of rocks. It has applied for approval of permits from the Nevada Public Utilities Commission.

The concept is to obtain electricity when it is plentiful and cheap, such as when windmills and solar power plants are producing at their peak, and use it to drive railroad cars six miles and up 3,000 feet on a hill in Carpenter Canyon east of Highway 160. When the wind dies down and the sun isn’t shining, there is still a high demand for power so the price goes up. When this happens the rail cars will be released so that gravity will propel them downhill at 18 miles per hour and the electric motors that drove them up the hill become generators producing electricity to upload to the grid.

Valley Electric Association, which serves the Pahrump area, plans to build power lines to connect to the project.

The cost of the project is $55 million and the company still needs to come up with the financing, according to Green Tech Media.

The company has built a pilot project in Tehachapi, Calif., near a massive wind farm.

ARES CEO Jim Kelly has been quoted as saying the system can “be deployed at around half the cost of other available storage technologies. Just as important, ARES produces no emissions, burns no fuel, requires no water, does not use environmentally troublesome materials and sits very lightly on the land.”

Francesca Cava, vice president of operations for ARES, writes, “It’s a wonderfully simple idea, a 19th century solution for a 21st century problem, with some help from the abundant natural resource that is gravity. When the local utility’s got surplus electricity, it powers up the electric motors that drag 9,600 tons of rock- and concrete-filled railcars up a 2,000-foot hill. When it’s got a deficit, 9,600 tons of railcar rumble down, and those motors generate electricity via regenerative braking — the same way your Prius does. Effectively, all the energy used to move the train up the hill is stored, and recouped when it comes back down.” Or at least 85 percent of it.

Kelly also said, “Fifty megawatts doesn’t get us to economies of scale. We are more efficient as we get larger.”

Similar concepts, but using closed loop water pumping, have been proposed by Eldorado Valley and Blue Diamond, but nothing has developed.

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11 comments on “Rail car power storage facility proposed for Pahrump

  1. Vernon Clayson says:

    Or we coulod forget that green silliness and use coal, which is plentiful and can be made even cleaner than it is now,and natural gas, or drag the greenies, no doubt screaming that it will end life on earth, into the modern world and use nuclear energy. With the exception of CLark County with it’s huge population in Las Vegas and neighboring cities, most of the rest of the counties and cities could be powered by the nuclear power plants on many of our Navy ships.

  2. Art Solie says:

    Hi Fun seekers, With the data given in your article the downhill run would be 18 mi/hr divided by 5.5 mi =3.27+ hrs. More info is needed to determine practicality. Art.

  3. Steve says:

    Your equation is missing a variable, Art.
    How many regenerative motors are installed on the cars?
    If it is one for each steel wheel, there is a LOT of generating capacity in that short amount of time and 3.5 hrs would be available for most of the prime time demand.

  4. Edward Hamilton says:

    Mr Mitchell, when are you going to publish the candidates responses to your questionnaires of two weeks ago? Thanks.

  5. The pieces have been sent to Battle Born Media papers. I suspect they will be included in appropriate papers just prior to start of early voting.

  6. Rincon says:

    So you guys still prefer coal.

    Of course, global warming is of no concern since it cannot possibly be happening because….uh, wait a minute. How do you know it doesn’t exist? Oh yeah, because a bunch of Conservative pressure groups say it ain’t so. I don’t think I’ve seen a single scientific study cited here that shows significant evidence that global warming doesn’t exist, but hey, I’m just nit picking. Thomas also crows how global warming is over now. He’s sure of that. The facts that every one of the past 12 months was the hottest on record, 2015 was the hottest year on record and that 15 of the 16 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001, are immaterial, of course. It’s all over folks. Move along. Nothing to see here.

    Conservatives also assign as zero, the costs of the following impacts of coal mining and combustion:

    Coal mining leads u.s. industries in fatal injuries and is associated with chronic health problems among miners, such as black lung disease. In addition to the miners themselves, communities near coal mines may be adversely affected by mining operations due to the effects of blasting, the collapse of abandoned mines, and the dispersal of dust from coal trucks. Surface mining also destroys forests and groundcover, leading to flood-related injury and mortality, as well as soil erosion and the contamination of water supplies. mountaintop removal mining involves blasting down to the level of the coal seam—often hundreds of feet below the surface—and depositing the resulting rubble in adjoining valleys. this surface mining technique, used widely across southern appalachia, damages freshwater aquatic ecosystems and the surrounding environment by burying streams and headwaters.after removal of coal from a mine, threats to public health persist. When mines are abandoned, rainwater reacts with exposed rock to cause the oxidation of metal sulfide minerals. this reaction releases iron, aluminum, cadmium, and copper into the surrounding water system and can contaminate drinking water. Coal washing, which removes soil and rock impurities before coal is transported to power plants, uses polymer chemicals and large quantities of water and creates a liquid waste called slurry.
    slurry ponds can leak or fail, leading to injury and death, and slurry injected underground into old
    mine shafts can release arsenic, barium, lead, and manganese into nearby wells, contaminating local water supplies. once coal is mined and washed, it must be transported to power plants. Railroad engines and trucks together release over 600,000 tons of nitrogen oxide and 50,000 tons of particulate matter into the air every year in the process of hauling coal, largely through diesel exhaust. Coal trains and trucks also release coal dust into the air, exposing nearby communities to dust inhalation. the storage of post-combustion wastes from coal plants also threatens human health. there are 584 coal ash dump sites in the u.s., and toxic residues have migrated into water supplies and threatened human health at dozens of these sites.

    The combustion phase of coal’s life cycle exacts the greatest toll on human health. Coal combustion
    releases a combination of toxic chemicals into the environment and contributes significantly to global warming. Coal combustion releases sulfur dioxide, particulate matter (Pm), nitrogen oxides, mercury, and dozens of other substances known to be hazardous to human health. Coal combustion contributes to smog through the release of oxides of nitrogen, which react with volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight to produce ground-level ozone, the
    primary ingredient in smog.
    coal combustion emissions damage the respiratory, cardiovascular, and nervous systems and contribute to four of the top five leading causes of death in the u.s.: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory diseases. although it is difficult to ascertain the proportion of this disease burden that is attributable to coal pollutants, even very modest contributions to these major causes of death are likely to have large effects at the population level, given high incidence rates.

    But remember, these costs equal zero or near zero.

    Thanks to the PSR for the previous info.

  7. Mike says:

    You guys better check your math. 5.5 miles at 18 miles an hour is not 3+ hours. Its closer to 20 minutes. It’s 5.5 divided by 18, not the other way around.

    Number of wheels that can generate power will be limited to some extent. Too many wheels performing the regenerative braking and the train will stop or come to a crawl and each wheel will produce less and less power. Taking into account any inefficiencies of the wheel generators(any conversion of energy has liss to heat to light or both) there is probably a mathematically solution for optimum number of regenerative wheels, based on weight of train, length of run, output of the wheels, etc..

    This seems silly to put in the middle of Blm land with burrows, tortoises, ground owls, milkweed, etc. Build it alongside the roads going up to the skills lodge or something. Oh yeah, it’s ugly, that’s why they want to put it in pahrump. 55 million? Wow. Feed a lot of homeless kids with that. Buy some batteries and charge them during peak solar hours and drain them at low solar hours. Put it all in a nice tidy building near the road instead of a 5.5 mile blight on our public lands.

  8. Steve says:

    When all else fails, follow the links.

    Here’s a snippet.

    “The company is currently in the middle of the permit process to construct a full-scale commercial 50 MW REM system in Pahrump, Nevada for the Valley Electric Association and the California Independent System Operator (CA-ISO). This system will extend the length of the track to 5 miles (8 km) and up the weight of the individual vehicles to 300 tons (272 tonnes). The single track will be on an eight percent grade and have 32 vehicles operating on it, each able to absorb or provide around 1.5 MW of power.”

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