A Scottish energy from gravity pioneer is in talks with mine owners across Europe that see potential in its technology after the company passed a key milestone in the development process.

Gravitricity has started producing power using a system that harnesses the energy generated by heavy weights as they fall. The weights are raised using the excess electricity that is available at times of low demand.

The Edinburgh-based company said it has successfully completed a series of tests that involved using two 25-tonne weights to generate power. The results underlined how quickly energy could be produced using the technology.

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“We’ve proven we can go from zero to full power in less than a second,” said managing director Charlie Blair.

He added: “These tests confirm our modelling and show that gravity energy storage is a serious contender in the global energy storage market.”

The claim also reflects the belief that Gravitricity's system offers crucial cost advantages compared with alternatives.

“Once built, our system can last for over 25 years, with no loss in output or degradation over time,” noted Mr Blair. “This makes gravity storage cost-effective. And unlike batteries, we have no reliance on rare metals such as cobalt and nickel which are becoming increasingly scarce in the global drive to electrification.”

Founded in 2012 by clean energy specialists Martin Wright and Peter Fraenkel, Gravitricity has long held that its system could be used to turn disused mine shafts into valuable power generation and storage assets.

The company’s experience suggests there is real excitement in a range of countries about the potential of its gravity-based system as a means of producing power on demand. This could make it a good source of the back-up generating capacity that would be needed to compensate for fluctuations in the output of windfarms and the like.

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Gravitricity said it is in advanced discussion with mine owners in the UK, Scandinavia, Poland and the Czech Republic.

The company is working with South Africa’s United Mining Services to identify potential schemes in the country, under a programme funded by the Government-funded Innovate UK Energy Catalyst programme.

Scotland’s coal mining heritage means the country could provide opportunities for Gravitricity.

Energy giants have underlined the advantages offered by Scotland’s geography amid the drive to develop renewable energy resources on the scale required to meet Net Zero targets.

While much effort has been focused on wind and wave power, Yorkshire-based Drax has been delighted by the return achieved on the hefty investment it has made in the Cruachan pumped storage hydropower scheme in Argyll.

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This works on similar principles to the Gravitricity system. It features turbines that are driven by water that is allowed fall from a reservoir in the hills to Loch Awe below. The water is pumped back at times of low demand for energy.

Drax said yesterday that Cruachan had helped underpin a solid financial performance by the group in the first quarter.

The head of Drax’s generation business Mike Maudsley emphasised recently that the company saw enough potential in Cruachan to be prepared to invest in a big increase in capacity, with the right support. This could involve Drax building another turbine hall at Cruachan.

Drax acquired Cruachan along with a portfolio containing other renewable energy assets in Scotland from ScottishPower in a £700 million deal in 2018.

Drax said the division that supplies energy to SMEs continued to be affected by the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions in the first three months of this year. The impact of the coronavirus crisis wiped £60m off Drax’s profits last year.

In March Drax stopped commercial coal-fired generation at the giant plant from which it takes its name. It produces electricity from biomass at the plant.

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Perth-based SSE is working on plans to develop a pumped storage hydropower scheme in the Highlands. The Coire Glas scheme near Loch Lochy could become the largest of its kind in the UK

Gravitricity tested a 250 kilowatt version of its system using a 12-meter rig installed in the Port of Leith. It plans to run full-scale projects with up to eight megawatt generating capacity in disused mineshafts.