February 7, 2019: A pilot study to investigate if abandoned mines can be turned into cost effective utility-scale energy storage is being undertaken by Michigan Technological University and the City of Negaunee, Michigan, the university announced on January 24.
The collaboration aims to demonstrate underground pumped hydro technology in post-mining communities throughout the Lake Superior mining areas.
The study, funded by the Alfred P Sloan Foundation, will use surplus power to pump water to a higher geographical spot, and then run it through turbines to generate electricity to meet demand.
Roman Sidortsov, assistant professor of energy policy at the university, said: “Generally speaking, few organizations are building utility-scale hydroelectric systems now.
“Public concerns with the ecological impacts of water diversions and impoundments, combined with resistance to infrastructure development by neighbouring property owners has often meant that permitting utility-scale systems is difficult.
“If we move the entire system below ground and make it self-contained, there would be no effect on surface water flow, ecological systems or landscapes and scenic views. An underground pumped hydro storage system might be essentially invisible.”