Scientists Want to Turn Abandoned Mines Into Gravity Batteries

Credits: Energy Vault

Providing earth with renewable energy sources has two significant problems: Price and Storage.

Renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind energy, are expensive compared to traditional energy generation methods from Natural gas and coal.

However, recent estimations hint that solar energy will replace coal in 2025, marking a foreseeable solution to one of the problems. The latter problem is a bit trickier as there needs to be a way to store that energy too.

Despite being renewable, solar and, wind energy cannot create an undisturbed energy stream. As the sun sets and winds die, these renewable energies remain at a disadvantage when faring against fossil fuels, despite the myriad attempts of scientists to develop methods to store the energy when the grid needs it.

In the spirit of replacing non-renewable energy sources, scientists have developed a few bright ideas; One idea is to use iron-air batteries instead of the traditional Li-ion (Lithium-ion) batteries.

The Iron-air batteries are capable of providing energy to homes via rust! Another idea involves transforming the pre-existing coal-powered plants into nuclear power plants.

However, the one idea in the limelight is the “Gravity batteries.” The concept of a gravity battery is that they use regenerative braking and send energy back to the grid, providing an uninterrupted power supply.

These batteries are perfect, but they have their crisis: They are huge. Not only will they rob an area of its beauty appeal, but it will also become unfeasible for the people living nearby gravity batteries.

This is where the abandoned mines come in. Earlier this month, scientists announced a gravitational battery that capitalizes on the relics of dirty’s energy’s past to store the energy. The number of these abandoned mines soars by millions, with approximately 550,000 in the US alone!

The research was conducted with International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) at its pinnacle to understand the functionality of these batteries. This research studied a technology known as Underground Gravity Energy Storage (UGES).

The UGES technology lowers the enormous containers of sand into a mineshaft during the peak hours. During peak hours, the energy is expensive and costs you more.

These mines can transform the debris’ potential energy into actual energy through their regenerative braking feature. The UGES technology can work more efficiently with a bigger-sized battery. Hence, a bigger mine means a bigger battery and more power.

Since they are batteries, they need to recharge. The mine brings the debris back to the surface outside peak hours to recharge the batteries.

Unlike their lithium-ion counterparts, the most significant advantage of these batteries is that they come without self-discharge. You can keep these batteries on standby for months or even years and then utilize them when needed.

Besides being an alternative to non-renewable sources, mines also exhibit other benefits. Using abandoned mines can help persevere and produce more jobs and hide the unattractive infrastructure hidden underground. These mines also give a way to leverage pre-existing connections to the grid.

The IIASA claims that countries, including the US, Russia, and India, could benefit significantly from implementing this technology due to the availability of countless mines.

Companies like Energy Vault, a company manufacturing gravity-based batteries out of Switzerland, are pleading to develop more and more gravitational batteries. They try to follow a design to give an aesthetic look to these batteries so that homeowners can drop them anywhere in their house and they feel like a part of the house.

These batteries will look aesthetically pleasing, especially in homes that follow suburban and urban settings.

According to the BBC, many companies have taken the plunge into discovering ways to turn abandoned coal mines into next-gen batteries. On the other hand, some companies believe that the geographic limitations of these next-gen batteries would prevent a worldwide adaption of these batteries.

Considering all the information above, it’s safe to say that the future of the green energy future will increase solar, wind, and other next-gen power stations. Similarly, the storage method of these energies will also be an assorted combination of chemical and gravitational batteries, some above the ground and some below.

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