Electric dreams for disused quarries

The Quarry Battery Company (QBC) of London, plans to turn abandoned quarries and mines into energy-storage facilities that can absorb power from intermittent sources such as the sun and wind for use when demand peaks.
The company?s first project in North Wales has planning consent and is budgeted to cost about ?100 million ($AUD171 million) to build according to QBC managing director David Holmes. Construction of the 50megawatt facility should commence in 18 months.
In times of power surplus the plants pump water uphill to the basins for storage. When demand returns water is released through turbines to generate electricity similar to hydroelectric plants. Storage can be used to help balance supply and demand as Britain aims for 15 per cent of its energy to come from unpredictable renewable sources by 2020.
QBC is likely to sell its first site fully permitted for another company to build and has interest from energy companies, energy traders and pension funds in the UK and internationally. The company?s use of old mines and quarries for smaller projects would be less disrupting to the environment than projects that require more construction.
Upper and lower quarries
As the developer moves its first project through the development process it will also look to secure other pockets of land that suit its storage facilities. The first project is scheduled to start operating by the end of 2017.
A pumped storage battery can store enormous amounts of energy and release it very quickly. Two quarries are required, one at higher altitude than the other. When the grid has spare electricity, the battery charges by pumping water to the upper quarry. 
At peak times the water is released through a hydro generator turbine. 
Nuclear power stations cannot be turned down at night and wind farms are not as predictable as standard power stations. Therefore grid-scale batteries are an essential part of an efficient and renewable UK energy supply.
Powered by electricity, pumped storage batteries produce no smoke and do not require fuel deliveries. Once the quarries have been made water tight and connected with a pipe, a properly maintained facility should work indefinitely.
Sources: Bloomberg, Quarry Battery Company

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