Plan to create a deep mine gravity energy store

6 February 2024

The community of Pyhäjärvi, population 5000, lies 450 km north of Helsinki. It is home to one of Europe’s deepest mines – and now this small town in central Finland could host the continent’s first full-scale gravity energy store.

Nearby lies Pyhäsalmi Mine – Europe’s deepest zinc and copper mine – owned by First Quantum Minerals, a Canadian mining corporation, and descending 1444 metres into the earth. 

Many of the mine’s operations have now ended. However, there is a plan to transform a disused shaft into an underground energy store – using technology developed by Edinburgh energy storage firm Gravitricity.

Gravitricity has developed a unique energy storage system, GraviStore, which raises and lowers heavy weights in underground shafts, to offer what its maker calls ‘some of the best characteristics of lithium-ion batteries and pumped hydro storage’. The local community has set up a special development company, Callio Pyhäjärvi, to promote regeneration projects at the historic mine, of which the GraviStore scheme will be part.

The two organisations have now signed an agreement to transform a 530 metre deep auxiliary shaft into a full-scale prototype of Gravitricity’s technology – and anticipate that this could become Europe’s first GraviStore deployment.

They will now work together to develop the scheme, which would deliver up to 2MW of storage capacity. This would tie straight into the local electricity grid and provide balancing services to the Finnish network. 

Last year, Gravitricity signed an agreement with Swedish-Swiss energy multinational ABB to use ABB’s mine hoist expertise to help accelerate the adoption of underground energy storage. It is anticipated ABB will lend its expertise to the project, alongside Gravitricity’s other strategic partner, Dutch winch specialists Huisman.

Commenting on the initiative Gravitricity’s Executive Chairman Martin Wright said: “This full-scale project will provide a pathway to other commercial projects and allow our solution to be embedded into mine decommissioning activities, offering a potential future for mines approaching the end of their original service life.”

The underground energy store would be one of a number of initiatives at the former Finnish mine, where Callio has been established by the local community and mine owners to kick-start new projects at the mine including solar farms, new technology startups, mining technology testing facilities and an underground 5G network.

Image: Pyhäjärvi Mine (courtesy of Gravitricity)

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