A new UK firm has just received a £650,000 grant from Innovate UK to generate energy using abandoned mine shafts. They plan to raise and lower massive weights to generate powerful bursts of energy whenever required.

The system designed by Gravitricity should be able to respond to fluctuations in energy demand almost instantly.

An Innovation in Energy Generation

The Managing Director of Gravitricity, Charlie Blair, said of the need for energy innovation: “As we rely more and more on renewable energy, there is an increasing need to find ways to store that energy so we can produce quick bursts of power exactly when it is needed. So far there is a lot of focus on batteries, but our idea is quite different.”

Mr Blair went on to describe exactly how his firm’s idea would work. He explained: “Gravitricity uses a heavy weight, up to 2000 tonnes, suspended in a deep shaft by cables attached to winches. When there is excess electricity, for example on a windy day, the weight is winched to the top of the shaft ready to generate power. This weight can then be released when required, in less than a second, and the winches become generators, producing either a large burst of electricity quickly, or releasing it more slowly depending on what is needed.”

Gravity Energy Generator Could Last 50 Years

Gravitricity claim their the system is capable of operating for decades without degradation. They hope it will even last as long as half a century. The grant from Innovate UK enables Gravitricity to build a part-scale demonstrator model. They also plan to offer models ranging in size from 1 to 20MW. The company hopes to have a full-scale working prototype operational by 2020.

The firm is still seeking to partner with investors, especially any that have mining experience. Multiple disused mine shafts around the UK as well as in South Africa are currently being examined for potential.

How Innovate UK Helps Innovative Businesses

Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation, which is a non-departmental public body. They are funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government which they distribute to drive productivity and economic growth. They achieve this by supporting businesses like Gravitricity in the development and realisation of new ideas.

Since 2007, Innovate UK has invested approximately £2.5 billion to help businesses around the UK. Match funding from various industries takes the total value of projects above £4.3 billion. They have helped over 8,500 organisations and contributed to the creation of around 70,000 jobs. It has also been estimated that the organisation has added around £18 billion of value to the UK economy.

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