Rail Energy Storage System


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The home page has a fairly good explanation - as the video says it is a simple concept - use excess power generation to push weights up a hill (thus accumulating potential energy), then drive generators by letting the weights back down the hill to generate power when required.

It works for me as a concept - good luck to them!

Keef Wivaneff

From the patent application;
FIG. 11A shows details of an exemplary implementation of the beginning track sections of a power and return track system. The specific elements of each ARES system facility will vary with its intended storage and generation capacity, the elevation difference between the upper and lower yards and the grade. An ARES facility with a 3,600-foot elevation difference between upper and lower storage yards and an average inter-yard grade of 7.5% will be able to charge or discharge at 1,000 MW while providing 8000 MWh of net energy storage.

The steepest railway lines that do not utilize a rack system include:
13.5% (1 in 7.40) - Lisbon tram, Portugal
11.6% (1 in 8.62) - Pöstlingbergbahn, Linz, Austria[2]
11.0% (1 in 9.09) Cass Scenic Railway USA (former logging line)
9.0% (1 in 11.11) - Ligne de Saint Gervais - Vallorcine, France
7.1% (1 in 14.08) - Erzberg Railway, Austria
7.0% (1 in 14.28) - Bernina Railway, Switzerland
6.0% (1 in 16.7) - Arica, Chile to La Paz, Bolivia
6.0% (1 in 16.6) - Docklands Light Railway, London, UK
5.6% (1 in 18) - Flåm, Norway
5.3% (1 in 19) - Foxfield Railway, Staffordshire, UK
5.1% (1 in 19.6) - Saluda Grade, North Carolina, United States
5.0% (1 in 20) - Khyber Pass Railway, Pakistan
4.0% (1 in 25) - Cologne-Frankfurt high-speed rail line
Note that these are NOT freight rail lines but lightly loaded passenger cars.

Keef Wivaneff

I do agree, it sounds nice.
I actually thought of it myself before I heard about ARES.
Someone did the math(s) and said there were a few problems with the idea.

Now, I don't want to be negative and I wish them all the very best of luck...BUT I do hope it never rains on that 7.5% gradient track! Things might get VERY interesting.

Keef Wivaneff

Mick, I really don't want to get thrown off the forum so I'm trying to abide by the rules.
Would it be permissible for me to express the opinion that the idea is in actual fact BUNK?

Economic factors not even considered I think a 7.5% gradient track steel on steel is an impossibility.
There is no suggestion that they are planning a rack and pinion system.
If the gradient is reduced to a more realistic 2% then the length of (constant gradient) track needed becomes considerably longer and the cost becomes astronomical.

IMHO the money would be better spent on a more realistic solution to the energy storage problem.



Keef Wivaneff

Pumped water storage is a well proven and efficient method to store energy.
Most Hydro electric schemes eg Snowy Mountains are all ready doing this.
Intermittent renewables eg solar and windpower would benefit from storage capacity.
There is not an oversupply of suitable bodies of water.

New Invention flow batteries, flywheels, gravity-storage, compressed air, clockwork or whatever thingies will be along soon promise (send money now)

Most of these new invention enterprises will deliver only broken promises.


New Member
OK guys... just to give you the engineering reality check...

First - Fly wheels are awesome energy storage when you need a relatively large amount of power for short term ; temp power or large quick discharge. I've seen most applications for temp power for server farms gap power while generators pick up, and burst power for large scale laboratory work - energy weapons, plasma, EMP, lasers and the like. But flywheels only provide energy for seconds... not minutes or hours.

On the pertinent note - use of rail for energy storage and the worry about the steepness of the hill. First of all they have a video on the steep grade, so the pilot scale certainly works; and may be something other than a steel on steel rail. They make gas turbine blades out of unobtanium; and have tens of thousands of gas turbines out there, certain they can make, prove, permit and warranty heavy industrial process rail ways that are not "people rated" that can handle steeper grades using the right materials, this is 2013, not 1965.

Rack & Pinon? That's called a cog railway. We use them in the mountains.


Given the large number of decommissioned "obsolete" diesel electric train engines under 20 years of age equipped with regenerative breaking sitting around north america, you could probably improvise this with existing second hand locomotives. At 3 MW per locomotive, give me a dozen locomotives and I could handle a energy storage for a 30 MW wind farm of PV field easy. All I need is a big enough hill that the locomotives won't slide down.

Seriously though, talking to some power mechanical engineers that do stuff like this as a career; they really liked the idea of doing an rail energy storage yard, and putting it on a cogwail rail on mountain sides; just like the pumped energy storage we have in Colorado now; without the water rights problem. Honestly water is more expensive than coal or natural gas in Colorado so they have been slowly decommissioning the hydro electric plants out here in favor of selling the water.

And really you don't need a locomotive on the rail way. You could use a winch at the top of the hill and then the sliding of the rail wheels becomes a non issue. Seriously guys, don't complain about design limitations, just engineer a solution around it. And considering a whinch would like to minimize path length; maybe you just hang weights off a cliff connected to a winch

Mick West

Staff member
It all comes down to economics. Nobody is suggesting it would not work, it's just a question of if it's cost efficient, and what the capacity is. It needs to compete with the alternatives:

"Engineer a solution" is all very well, but there are theoretical and practical limits to any scheme.
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