Hydroelectric engineers find potential in centuries-old mine

Posted: December 19, 2016 by oldbrew in innovation
Tags: ,

Former US iron mine

Former US iron mine

Whatever the economics of this plan may be, it highlights the fact that lack of storage capacity is one of the serious drawbacks of renewable energy. Phys.org reporting.

Some look at an abandoned, centuries-old iron mine in New York’s Adirondacks and see a relic. An ambitious group of engineers sees the shafts in Mineville as a new way to provide a steady flow of electricity in a growing market for renewable energy.

They are pitching a plan to circulate some of the millions of gallons of groundwater that have flooded the mine shafts over the years to power an array of 100 hydroelectric turbines a half-mile underground.

They envision the operation as a solution for solar and wind power producers, who need ways to ensure an uninterrupted flow of energy when the sun isn’t shining and winds are still.

“Today, everyone’s recognizing that a critical part of our energy infrastructure is going to be storage,” said Jim Besha, head of Albany Engineering Corp., as he gave officials a tour of the mine site about 100 miles north of Albany. “You can think of it as a bank. If someone has excess solar energy, they would pay a fee to store it overnight.”

While logistically complex, the plan is at the same time incredibly simple: Engineers would drain roughly half of the water from the shafts and pump the remainder into an upper chamber. The water would then be released into a lower chamber, powering turbines and creating electricity. The turbines would be reversed to pump the water back up to repeat the process.

Technically, the pumped water is considered stored energy, to be released strategically when power is needed.The Mineville Pumped Storage Project still faces federal approvals and up to three years of construction, but it could become one of the first projects of its kind in the nation.

It also would mark a 21st century re-use of a mine that famously contributed iron for the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War on nearby Lake Champlain and was mined for the last time in 1971.

Underground projects using mines, caverns and excavated spaces have become attractive because of reduced environmental effects. In addition to Mineville, projects have been proposed for an abandoned mine and quarry in Elmhurst, Illinois, and underground caverns in Wiscasset, Maine.

Full report: Hydroelectric engineers find potential in centuries-old mine | Phys.org

  1. oldbrew says:

    Of course as Wikipedia says ‘the losses of the pumping process make the plant a net consumer of energy overall’.


  2. JB says:

    Same conclusion I came to in an English communications paper I wrote in college–1975. There I examined the idea of using wind power to lift water from an established farm well and pump it to the top of a nearby 300′ hill. After consideration of all the material investment, maintenance, and loses it was evident my idea was, as Hoyle put it, rubbish. Over the years since, variations on the theme yielded similar results using a pencil and the noggin.

    I did not discover until decades later that Sir Fred had covered the same ground in his Energy or Extinction, published in 1977. Nice little book even the modestly technically minded should read.

  3. oldbrew says:

    Lubos Motl borrowed the idea of ‘Storing excess energy in trains’ but he was probably joking.

    The original of it was as he says the ‘Sisyphus Railroad’…

    ‘The train will go up or down the track depending on the needs of the California grid to which it will be linked. The developers claim an incredible 85-percent efficiency, according to Francesca Cava, an ARES spokeswoman. “That’s what you get with steel wheels on steel track,” she says.’


  4. Curious George says:

    Any storage has losses, be it an energy storage or a grain storage. That’s not an issue. The cost is an issue.

  5. oldmanK says:

    Quote oldbrew: “Is baseload an outdated concept?”

    In some circles baseload was thought as the draft mule of power generation. But by design it was inflexible when it comes to fast load changes, and inefficient away from it design point. So one was required to adapt the load to the plant, like using the washing machine and heater during the night when the load is light.

    However convenience – and new plant, along with new design review, made flexible plant with fast response more attractive. That apart from other financial considerations.

  6. Saighdear says:

    Crikey folks ! you can’t let them do that! if they let all that water out, it’ll raise sea levels! – just like what could happen when stored CO2 escapes BACK into the environment
    Phew! .. actually maybe quite a good idea….. the wonders of Engineering

  7. Joe basel says:

    According to the Electric Power Research Institute, pumped hydro storage accounts for more than 99% of bulk storage capacity worldwide, with around 127,000 MW installed. Of this, two of the world’s five largest pumped storage hydro projects are located in the US.

    Dominion Generation’s 3,000-MW Bath County Pumped Storage Station is the US’s and the world’s largest such project. Built between 1972 and 1985, its cost is about $533/kW. China and Japan have three of the next largest plants, with China’s two 2,400-MW pumped storage projects and Japan’s 1,932-MW installation. The world’s fifth largest is the 1872 MW Ludington pumped storage plant in Michigan, which is shared by Consumers Energy and Detroit Edison and operated by Consumers. Ludington, completed a decade before Bath County, cost just $168/kW.