Germany is planning to turn one of its old coal mines into a giant ‘battery station’ that will backup hydroelectric power and provide energy to around 400,000 homes, with hopes of launching alike services across the country in the coming years.
After completing half a century of service, the Prosper-Haniel hard coal mine in the north-west of the country is due to be shut down in 2018, when the task of getting it transformation to a clean energy facility will begin.
Researchers from several German universities are working with private engineering firms and the government on the project, and have been running feasibility studies on the site since 2012. If the project is a success, more mines like this could be adapted.
The 600-metre-deep (1,969-foot) mine supply something the area doesn’t have naturally – elevation. That’s vital if you want to generate a pumped storage plant like this, with a reservoir on high ground usually feeding another in a valley below.
“In regions such as the Rhineland or the Ruhr area, the lack of relief in the landscape does not provide the necessary height differences [for hydroelectric power],” explains the project website. “This is where the former coal mines come in.”
The transformed 200-megawatt plant would take in energy from wind turbines, solar panels, and biomass sources installed on the surface above the mine.
As for the battery part of the equation, water could be pumped out of the mine during a specific sunny or windy day, effectively preserving the energy as a volume of water in the top reservoir until it was needed.
There are some 26 kilometers (16 miles) of shafts in the complex, with the potential to have a million cubic meters (35 million cubic feet) of water flowing through them, aided by the forces of gravity.
An additional benefit of converting disused mines is that it doesn’t hinder with the natural landscape or require the rerouting of rivers, which is often the case for other types of hydroelectric power plant.
And of course, we love the idea of a source of fossil fuels being transformed into something that’s so much better for the planet. We can’t wait to see the finished product.