UK business aims to convert abandoned mines into energy storage sites

Abandoned mine sites across the UK are being sought after as potential sites for developing giant battery facilities, with capabilities of responding to grid demands instantly.

The UK based startup Gravitricity has just recently received £650,000 grant from Innovate UK based on its plans to utilise abandoned mine shafts to develop massive battery infrastructure. The sites will include weights that when energy is plentiful will be raised towards the surface, similar to the principle of water being pushed uphill in a pumped hydro storage system. However, unlike hydro, this system will be capable of responding to alterations in demand nearly straight away.

The Managing director of Gravitricity, Charlie Blair believes as we become more dependent on renewable energy there will be an increased demand to find better solutions for storing energy and producing energy exactly when required. Blair emphasises the battery market is very popular at the moment but highlights this concept is different. Using a heavyweight, the system is suspended in the mine shaft by cables supported to winches. In a situation where there is excess electricity i.e. on a windy day, the weight is lifted to the top of the shaft and ready to create energy. The weight can then be released when necessary, in under a second. The connecting winches then act as generators, generating a quick burst of energy or releasing it more slowly.

Blair believes this revolutionary system can be operational for decades with deterioration and have a potential lifespan of up to 50 years. The business intends to create various models, ranging from 1 to 20 MW. They also plan to deliver a scale sized prototype later this year.

Gravitricity

Figure: Gravitricity is currently exploring a series of disused mine shafts across the UK and overseas in South Africa.

Gravitricity is currently looking for additional investment, particularly from businesses with expertise in mining. The business continues to investigate a number of abandoned mine sites across the UK as well as overseas in South Africa. Plans suggest a full-scale working test site will be complete and operational by 2020.

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