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Wind power could be stored in water under the Harz mountains

The Local · 23 May 2011, 08:15

Published: 23 May 2011 08:15 GMT+02:00

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The project would be a world first – putting a pumped-storage hydroelectricity plant into an old mine, thus avoiding potential planning objections.

As Germany seeks ways to make renewable energy more reliable, one of the major questions is how to store energy generated by solar on sunny, or by wind turbines on blustery days.

Pumped-storage hydroelectricity plants work by using power from solar or wind turbine sources to pump water from one tank to another above it. When the sun goes in or the wind stops blowing and electricity is needed, the water from the top is released to the bottom tank – pushing through turbines as it goes and generating power.

Marko Schmidt, an industrial engineer for the Energy Research Centre of Lower Saxony (EFZN), has carried out a study on building such a plant in the abandoned Wiemannsbucht mine shaft in Bad Grund, a town in the western Harz mountains which he said could be done for up to €200 million.

Several potential pitfalls remain – including as-yet unfound investors – but he says the plant could stimulate the economy and provide urgent energy relief to the region.

“The Harz is one of the most outstanding regions where an underground pumped-storage plant is possible,” Schmidt told news agency DAPD.

A total of six such projects have been proposed for the West Harz region. The storage capacity of the proposed plant in Bad Grund is 400 megawatt hours - enough to provide more than 40,000 households with electricity for a whole day.

While the proposed plant would store energy generated by local wind turbines, future larger projects could also be used as storage for offshore wind power from the North Sea.

Above-ground storage plants, already in use throughout Germany, act as energy reservoirs to overcome intermittent energy shortages common with renewable sources such as wind.

The new subterranean proposal in the Harz would make use of elevation differences between old tunnel crossings in the mines, which can be as deep as 900 metres.

For Schmidt, the underground plant idea's attraction lies in its minimal impact on the landscape. He said he did not expect Harz residents to protest its construction as they had previously opposed wind turbines and above-ground power lines.

Policy makers have yet to throw their full support behind the project, one of 16 proposals to stimulate the economy of the Harz region, but their rhetoric is optimistic.

The government of Lower Saxony supports the project and is following it with “interest and excitement,” said a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Pending legal approval, the plant could be built in between three and five years, providing the region with up to 150 new jobs, while the plant's daily operations would employ up to seven people.

Wolf-Rüdiger Canders, professor of electrical machinery at the Braunschweig University of Technology, believes in the project and said it was “not unrealistic” that investors would be found.

DAPD/The Local/adn

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

13:57 May 25, 2011 by cklb
Question remains: how does the ground react to water being pumped around and stored in different levels? I remember at least two cases where ground source heat pumps lead to major trouble (in the first case: local earth quakes; in the second one the ground was gypsum and started to elevate leaving houses with cracks and some unlivable....). If you do experiments like that, do it in areas where no one lives nearby...
21:05 May 27, 2011 by KewGardensNYC
Yes, obviously this must be done carefully, but the principle--pigging backing new technology and the ruins of the old--is terribly important. Thus, as mine trailings from gold and other metals can be residual debris terraformed and cleaned up, using modern methods more metal can be extracted. In the case of gold, this is literally, a gold mine.

By making use of existing mines and underground features, why can't garbage processing industries and other processes people don't want in their faces be concealed; making use of the steady temperature of the earth as a cost saving feature? There are literally hundreds of thousands of mines in every country of this planet and some--if not many--could be adaptively reused with some thought.
23:43 May 27, 2011 by DrGideonPolya
This is a very useful advance. Wind energy is the cheapest and most mature renewable energy technology but energy storage is needed to permit 24/7 baseload power and hydrological energy storage is an established technology that can provide a solution.

Electrical engineer Professor Peter Seligman (a key player in the development of the bionic ear) has written a book :"Australian sustainable energy - by the numbers" in which he proses a mix of wind, solar thermal and other technologies to provide 100% renewable energy for Australia by 2030 for $250 billion. He proposes energy storage via sea water storage in dams on Australia's Nullabor Plain (such technology has been applied in Okinawa, Japan).
10:29 May 28, 2011 by notelove2
KewGardensNyc - I loke your comment, and agree with you - lets use the space already there for something useful
17:53 May 30, 2011 by NorthDakotaSwede
It would be smarter and cheaper to dam off an Alpen valley and pump the water into it. You could store greater volume and have a new recreation area to boot.
00:29 May 31, 2011 by talltreetrader
We have a system here in NE Oklahoma that has been in use for over 40 years.

It was built when the Grand River Dam Authority up graded the area below Grand River Dam on the Grand River for the purpose of making the Verdigris River Navigational for barge traffic to the Mississippi and New Orleans.

The Hudson lake dam just below the Grand River Dam has a "Pump Back" that pumps water to a holding basin at a higher elevation using extra power from the GRDA Grid; this in turn is allowed to flow back through turbines during peak power needs.

Incidentally the "Pump Back basin" is one of the best fishing lakes in Oklahoma.
02:43 August 2, 2011 by Anumakonda
Innovative way of storing Wind Energy.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Wind Energy Expert

E-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh@gmail.com
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