Germany Converts Coal Mine into Giant Battery to Store Renewable Energy for off-Hours

(EnviroNews World News) — North Rhein Westphalia, Germany — The Prosper-Haniel hard coal mine, slated to be shut down in 2018 when government subsidies run out, is being repurposed to become a giant battery for excess power created by renewable energy sources. Located in North Rhein Westphalia, the coal mine’s conversion will allow Germany to store 200 MW of electricity for use during times when solar and wind are unavailable or unable to meet energy needs.

The storage is formed by a reservoir of water above the mine. The water can be released into the system when it is needed. As gravity pulls the water into the coal mine below, the water turns a turbine creating electricity. The water is then pumped back to the reservoir. This can be done when power prices are lower or when renewable energy sources are making more energy than people are using, as they did in Germany on May 12, 2016. This isn’t the first pumped hydroelectric storage station; however, it is the first one to use a coal mine for its lower reservoir.

According to Governor Hannelore Kraft, the miners of Bottrop will remain employed during the conversion process. Thus the plan addresses two concerns about which most opponents are vocal when it comes to energy sources like solar and wind. It creates a storage system, and it keeps people employed.

However, unable to attack the plan based on the usual problems associated with renewable energy sources, opponents cite the project’s inherent energy inefficiency as reason to be wary. Because the battery is a pumped hydroelectric storage station, the water used to turn the turbines must be pumped back to the upper reservoir. Opponents claim the energy loss from this recirculation process may be as high as 20 percent.

Germany has an ambitious plan to reduce its fossil fuel and nuclear energy dependency by 80 percent by 2050. The country is currently sitting at 33 percent, which makes it likely that it will meet its first goal of 35 to 40 percent by 2025. Germany plans to have all nuclear plants shut down by 2022.

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