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Disused mines to be used as giant gravity batteries

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A UK start-up aims to turn disused mine shafts across the country into giant gravity batteries capable of reacting to grid demands in seconds.

Graviticity has received a £650,000 grant from Innovate UK to pursue its plans.
Graviticity has received a £650,000 grant to pursue its plans to create giant gravity batteries.
(Image via Graviticity).
The system revolves around the use of a huge ‘clock weight’ which is suspended in a deep shaft by a number of ropes which are linked to a winch. Electrical power is then absorbed or generated by raising or lowering the weight. The system follows a similar concept to the way in which water is driven uphill in pumped hydro storage. Unlike hydro however, Graviticity’s system will be able to respond to demand for electricity almost instantly.

Graviticity will be using the funding to design and build a 250kW concept demonstrator, ready for testing in late 2018. It is hoped that this will confirm Graviticity’s commercial characteristics, validate its simulations, and provide a physical proof of concept. During 2018 the company is also aiming to develop the site and engineering designs for a full-scale prototype planned for a UK mineshaft in 2019-20.

Charlie Blair, managing director of Graviticity, explained more about the project, saying:

“As we rely more and more on renewable energy, there is an increasing need to find ways to store energy- so we can produce quick bursts of power exactly when it is needed.”

“So far there is a lot of focus on batteries, but our idea is quite different. Graviticity uses a heavy weight- up to 2,000 tonnes- suspended in a deep shaft by cables attached to winches. When there is excess electricity, for example on a windy day, the weight is winched to the top of the shaft ready to generate power.”

“The weight can then be released when required- in less than a second- and the winches become generators, producing either a large burst of electricity quickly, or releasing it more slowly depending on what is needed.”

Should the pilot prove to be a success, Graviticity is exploring multiple mine sites in the UK and South Africa where their new solution could be deployed from 2020 onwards.

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