Energy storage company Gravitricity has received a £300,000 grant from Innovate UK’s Catalyst programme to explore South Africa’s mine storage potential.

Partnering with South African energy consultancy RESA, the UK company claims its energy batteries could help solve the country’s energy problem.

Gravitricity managing director Charlie Blair said: “South Africa has an energy crisis – with insufficient grid capacity to meet demand.

“The country has ambitious plans to develop more renewable energy, but at the same time there is a lack of supply and robust grid infrastructure to carry power to factories and people’s homes – particularly at peak times.”

Gravitricity’s energy batteries function by raising weights totalling 12,000 tonnes in a deep mineshaft and releasing them when energy is required, storing gravitational energy at half the lifetime cost of lithium-ion batteries.

These features make Gravitricity’s technology suitable for the South African context, where mines are as deep as three kilometres.

Blair added: “Our technology uses repurposed mine shafts to store excess energy and then release it when required – either in very rapid, short bursts or over a long period of time. This takes the pressure off the grid and helps smooth supply at vital times.

“And because South African mines are so deep, this means we can store even greater quantities of power.”

RESA research analyst Melani De Lima said: “Gravitricity offers a solution that addresses the problem of intermittency by storing large amounts of energy and also addresses grid imbalances through super-fast response times.”

Due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, Gravitricity and RESA will start field trips next year.

Innovate UK’s Catalyst programme supports UK businesses when developing new technologies for energy access in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.