The irresistible allure of old mine shafts

UK energy start-up Gravitricity announced February 7 it had received a GBP650,000 ($903,400) grant from Innovate UK, the UK government’s innovation agency, for a plan to use old mines shafts to store energy. The idea is relatively simple: A massive weight would be raised up the mine shaft using a winch powered by electricity at times of low power prices. The weight could then be released quickly or slowly depending on the power requirement, with the potential energy of the falling weight used to drive a generator. The idea is a variation on two themes and another example of the seemingly irresistible attraction old mine shafts hold for energy development companies. It seems impossible not to gaze down into the darkness and think ‘how can this large hole in the ground be put to use?’ Gravitricity’s project is similar to one proposed by US company Gravity Power in 2011. That envisaged a huge piston in a mine shaft filled with water and was dubbed the Gravity Power Module. The idea was that cheap electricity was used to pump water into the shaft raising the piston, which would then be released when required, forcing the water back through a hydro turbine… continue reading

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