As the world is slowly leaning towards renewables, many are still doubtful about these sources of energy because of the problem of intermittency: there are times when the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow, and different trends when it comes to battery innovation are still expensive these days.
Meanwhile, hundreds of hills in the UK could be turned into energy storage sites to provide an almost unlimited power source.
That’s why a London-based startup called RheEnergise is planning to change the way we store energy. This time, it will involve making the use of gravity on hills. The system is similar to conventional hydropower plants where water is pumped up mountains before being released to spin turbines and generators to power our homes. But while these conventional dams are only effective and economically feasible on steep hills, the new system can be built on smaller hills all across the U.K., thus making it more accessible in many areas.
How Is This Hydro Technology Possible?
Instead of water, the new system pumps much denser fluid. This fluid travels up and down in underground pipes, making them less impactful on the environment. The technology could also be put in abandoned mines to make them useful once again. The startup claims that this breakthrough could allow more sites across the country to play host to their high-intensity projects, which could help the country lean towards renewables.
The hydro technology could also be scaled down to store only the amount of energy produced by a typical renewable energy station. According to chief executive Stephen Crosher, it’s imperative to store it locally as to where the energy’s been produced.
Meanwhile, the UK is expected to meet the 13GW clean energy generation and storage demand to balance the electricity grid by the end of the decade.
Li-Ion Batteries Vs. Hill Batteries
While Li-Ion batteries only make sense when storing energy for a couple of hours, the hydro technology is much more practical when the energy has to be stored for several hours before its used. Crosher added that depending on the system’s total cost, it could be competitive enough to be on par with gas-fired power plants.
The technology has the potential to turn many abandoned mines across the U.K. into something more useful, like, for instance, renewable energy-focused facilities. The startup has already mapped out about 9,500 sites in the country with hills that are ideal for accommodating hydro technology. According to them, construction and installation of the technology will begin in a few months’ time.
According to a source, the UK is expected to meet the 13GW clean energy generation and storage demand to balance the electricity grid by the end of the decade.
Exploring Gravity For Energy Production
Meanwhile, other companies, such as Gravitricity, are exploring the wonders of gravity to produce electricity. It involves dropping weighs down abandoned mine shafts. These innovative projects are far from being the answer to UK’s need for batteries, but they’re worth something to help meet its goals at a lower cost.