Low-carbon energy transitions taking place worldwide are primarily driven by the integration of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. These variable renewable energy (VRE) sources require energy storage options to match energy demand reliably at different time scales. This article suggests using a gravitational-based energy storage method by making use of decommissioned underground mines as storage reservoirs, using a vertical shaft and electric motor/generators for lifting and dumping large volumes of sand. The proposed technology, called Underground Gravity Energy Storage (UGES), can discharge electricity by lowering large volumes of sand into an underground mine through the mine shaft. When there is excess electrical energy in the grid, UGES can store electricity by elevating sand from the mine and depositing it in upper storage sites on top of the mine. Unlike battery energy storage, the energy storage medium of UGES is sand, which means the self-discharge rate of the system is zero, enabling ultra-long energy storage times. Furthermore, the use of sand as storage media alleviates any risk for contaminating underground water resources as opposed to an underground pumped hydro storage alternative. UGES offers weekly to pluriannual energy storage cycles with energy storage investment costs of about 1 to 10 USD/kWh. The technology is estimated to have a global energy storage potential of 7 to 70 TWh and can support sustainable development, mainly by providing seasonal energy storage services.
KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2023-02-16
Acknowledgements: Funding from the State Grid Brazil Holdings via the Brazilian Agency of Electric Energy R&D program. Project title: “Framework Development for Pumped Storage Hydro Power Projects”. Funding number: PD-05018-0120/2020.