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.