Hydroelectric engineers find energy potential in centuries-old New York mine
* : CBS news * : hsdadmin * : 2016-12-20 * : 0
They are pitching a plan to circulate some of the millions of gallons of
groundwater that have flooded the mine shafts over the years to power
an array of 100 hydroelectric turbines a half-mile underground.
envision the operation as a solution for solar and wind power
producers, who need ways to ensure an uninterrupted flow of energy when
the sun isn’t shining and winds are still.
recognizing that a critical part of our energy infrastructure is going
to be storage,” said Jim Besha, head of Albany Engineering Corp., as he
gave officials a tour of the mine site about 100 miles north of Albany.
“You can think of it as a bank. If someone has excess solar energy, they
would pay a fee to store it overnight.”
complex, the plan is at the same time incredibly simple: Engineers would
drain roughly half of the water from the shafts and pump the remainder
into an upper chamber. The water would then be released into a lower
chamber, powering turbines and creating electricity. The turbines would
be reversed to pump the water back up to repeat the process.
Technically, the pumped water is considered stored energy, to be released strategically when power is needed.
Mineville Pumped Storage Project still faces federal approvals and up
to three years of construction, but it could become one of the first
projects of its kind in the nation.
It also would mark a 21st century re-use of a mine that famously
contributed iron for the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War on
nearby Lake Champlain and was mined for the last time in 1971.
the locals, the pumped storage project would breathe new life into a
depressed former mining town, doubling the local tax base, generating
hundreds of construction jobs and a dozen permanent ones, and providing
extras like a new highway garage and water lines, said Tom Scozzafava,
supervisor of the surrounding town of Moriah.
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a community that has never fully
recovered from the closing of the mine,” Scozzafava said. “And
environmentally, it’s very clean. It’s all underground and utilizes the
same water source continuously. You can’t find a cleaner way to produce
and store power than pumped storage.”
Besha first envisioned his
plans in 1990 after Scozzafava came to him looking for a way to make
the defunct mine profitable again. The project languished until 2005 as
interest in renewable energy projects grew.
“Now it looks like
it could be online just when it’s needed,” Besha said, noting Democratic
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call for 50 percent of the state’s electricity to
come from renewable sources like wind and solar by 2030.
project is basically an underground version of big outdoor projects that
rely on the same principle. The New York Power Authority’s
Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Project in the Catskills and the proposed
Eagle Mountain project in southern California, for example, use
outdoor, hilltop lakes as the upper reservoirs.
pumped storage projects, which have been used for decades to meet peak
demand for electricity produced by fossil fuel and nuclear plants,
represent 97 percent of the nation’s energy storage today.
the Department of Energy is calling for a big increase in pumped storage
capacity by 2050 to meet the needs of renewable energy sources that are
growing so fast the Energy Information Administration predicts they’ll
overtake nuclear energy by 2021 and coal by 2030.
storage enables greater integration of variable renewables, like wind
and solar, into the grid by utilizing excess generation, and being ready
to produce power during low wind and solar generation periods,” said
LeRoy Coleman, of the National Hydropower Association.
projects using mines, caverns and excavated spaces have become
attractive because of reduced environmental effects. In addition to
Mineville, projects have been proposed for an abandoned mine and quarry
in Elmhurst, Illinois, and underground caverns in Wiscasset, Maine.