Once they were used to transport miners deep below the earth’s crust. Now South Africa’s gold mines could find a valuable new role – as energy stores.
Scots energy storage start-up Gravitricity has just received £300,000 from government agency Innovate UK to explore South Africa’s mine shaft potential.
The African nation faces an energy crisis – with insufficient grid infrastructure to reliably connect electricity generation to power users. Energy stores could be the key.
Gravitricity’s innovative energy battery works by raising multiple heavy weights – totalling up to 12,000 tonnes – in a deep shaft and releasing them when energy is required.
Analysts calculate Gravitricity’s system can store energy at half the lifetime cost of lithium-ion batteries – and already the green-tech pioneers are planning to install their invention in repurposed mineshafts across Europe. The Scots innovators have now received £300,000 from Innovate UK’s Energy Catalyst programme to explore South Africa’s potential.
“South Africa has an energy crisis – with insufficient grid capacity to meet demand. Our technology helps bridge that gap,” explains Gravitricity Managing Director Charlie Blair.
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“The country has ambitious plans to develop more renewable energy, but at the same time there is a lack of supply and robust grid infrastructure to carry power to factories and people’s homes – particularly at peak times.
“Our technology uses repurposed mine shafts to store excess energy and then release it when required – either in very rapid, short bursts or over a long period of time. This takes pressure of the grid and helps smooth supply at vital times.”
Commenting on the partnership, Dr Melani De Lima from RESA said: “The South African electricity market is in crisis. Since 2008 the country has been faced with intermittent periods of load shedding.
“Gravitricity offers a solution that addresses the problem of intermittency by storing large amounts of energy, and also addresses grid imbalances through super-fast response times.”