Context – An Australian renewable energy company’s unique Scheme to generate electricity may resuscitate the fortunes of one of India’s iconic but defunct gold mines, namely the Kolar Gold Fields (KGF), in Karnataka.
How do Gravity Batteries work?
- When there is plenty of green energy, the batteries use the power to lift a heavy weight either high into the air or to the top of a deep shaft.
- Then when the renewables are limited, winches gradually lower the weight, release the load, powering a generator with the downward gravitational pull from the movement of the cables.
- This would mean you could store power captured by a solar farm during the day when the sun is shining, and then release that electricity to the grid in the evening when demand rises because people are at home using electricity to watch TV, cook and heat their homes.
Gravity batteries vs Lithium-ion
Gravity batteries are not the only way renewable energy can be stored, lithium-ion batteries dominate the market, and some experts favour green hydrogen. But gravity is free, clean and easily accessible, without the complications of producing hydrogen or the environmental and human rights concerns linked to some lithium mining.
Storing power in mineshafts
Full-scale energy stores in former mines can make good use of existing infrastructure and create jobs in exactly those areas where they’re most needed. The emotional aspect of this is also important. Whole communities once worked in the mines – and generally, they’re very happy to see them used for storing renewable energy.”
Note – The World Economic Forum founded the Global Battery Alliance (GBA) in 2017 to establish a sustainable battery supply chain by 2030. The body of over 100 leading international organizations, NGOs, industry actors, academics and multiple governments became independent in 2021 and its membership is collectively working towards the goals set out in the GBA 2030 Vision. The GBA 2030 Vision is to foster a circular, responsible and just battery value chain.
The GBA hosts Action Partnerships to achieve its vision of a sustainable battery value chain by 2030, including:
The Battery Passport Action Partnership: to establish global criteria, data and benchmarks for a sustainable and transparent battery market;
Critical Materials: to ensure critical materials are sourced, processed, manufactured and recycled in a manner that minimizes environmental impacts, protects human rights and creates benefits for stakeholders along the value chain.
Energy Access & Circularity: to ensure energy access in emerging economies, reduce lead poisoning and promote circularity.