Germany has set itself on a one-way road towards adopting clean, renewable energy, even if that means giving up what is today its most prolific resource: nuclear power. However, Germany has lots of other options, so many that they’ll need extra storage for the energy that can be produced using offshore wind turbines or solar panels.
But the problem is that wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. The energy captured during peak production hours has to be stored somehow, and there are few cost-effective options there.
One such option sits in the Harz mountains, in central Germany, where once Hitler used to build his V-12 rockets in secret labor camps and later on the Russians would establish their secret bases. Now, at 66 years after the war ended, and 22 years since the Berlin wall fell, the region is still lacking jobs. Renewable energy could thus revive the inhabitants and provide an extra source of income besides tourism.
Germany set its ambitions to have 35 percent of the energy generated by renewable resources by 2035 and 80 percent of it by 2050. That much energy will be helped by the hydroelectric pump storage German engineers are planning to install in the Harz mountains.
Simply, the extra energy from the planned renewable resources in the region will be put to use by powering water pumps that will fill huge tanks at the top of the mountains, and when the energy is needed, the water would be released down into the mines that once served as labor camps, spinning electricity-generating turbines.
“It’s the right time for such a project,” Christian Budde, spokesman for the Economic Ministry of Lower Saxony, told GlobalPost.” And the question of energy storage is definitely one of the big problems we are facing over the next few years as we transition from the age of coal, gas and atomic energy to the age of renewables.”
The original idea of using mines to store energy belongs to Marko Schmidt, an industrial engineer with the Energy Research Center of Lower Saxony in Goslar, after experimenting with small water power stations underground the Harz mountains.
Several other solutions involving underground mines had been formulated in the energy storage industry, but all of them had multiple drawbacks that either made them economically unfeasible or technically impossible to build. This one, on the other hand, seems just right from the beginning, since it makes use of natural resources, no high-pressure tanks beneath the soil, etc. I can truly say this kind of project is to be followed where possible, all around the world.