SCOTTISH energy storage start-up Gravitricity has received £300,000 from government agency Innovate UK to explore the potential to use gold mine shafts in South Africa as energy stores.

The company said the African nation faces an energy crisis with insufficient grid infrastructure to reliably connect electricity generation to power users and that energy stores could be the key.

Gravitricity’s new energy battery works by raising multiple heavy weights - totalling up to 12,000 tonnes - in a deep shaft and releasing them when energy is required.

The firm said this makes it ideally suited to the region, which has numerous high-quality mine shafts, with some as deep as 3km.

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Analysts calculate Gravitricity’s system can store energy at half the lifetime cost of lithium-ion batteries, and the green-tech pioneers are planning to install their invention in repurposed mineshafts across Europe.

The Edinburgh-based innovators have now received £300,000 from Innovate UK’s Energy Catalyst programme to explore South Africa’s potential.

Charlie Blair, Gravitricity managing director, said: “South Africa has an energy crisis, with insufficient grid capacity to meet demand. Our technology helps bridge that gap.

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The country has ambitious plans to develop more renewable energy, but at the same time there is a lack of supply and robust grid infrastructure to carry power to factories and people’s homes, particularly at peak times.This is leading to local curtailment and blackouts.

“Our technology uses repurposed mine shafts to store excess energy and then release it when required – either in very rapid, short bursts or over a long period of time. This takes pressure of the grid and helps smooth supply at vital times.

“Because South African mines are so deep, this means we can store even greater quantities of power.”

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