abandoned mine shaft
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
March 31, 2024 ·  4 min read

Gravity batteries in abandoned mines could power the whole planet, scientists say

There is a new sustainable technology for storing energy on the block. It is known as ‘ Underground Gravity Energy Storage’ or ‘ UGES’  – aka gravity batteries. These gravity batteries take advantage of abandoned mines around the world. The researchers propose that this could provide an avenue to more sustainable energy for future generations. This is just another step towards a more sustainable future and may help us to save the planet.

The New Gravity Batteries Changing The Way We Store Energy

We usually think of batteries as an environmental bad-guy. These batteries, however, are quite the opposite. Through a technique called ‘Underground Gravity Energy Storage’ (UGES), researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) have examined technology that would use gravity batteries to store energy in existing but currently unused mine shafts. This proposed novel type of energy storage solution by IIASA researchers aims to use mining sites that are no longer being used as an ideal places to install gravity batteries. (1)

These gravity batteries would be used to store energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar, and also provide a reliable source of energy when needed. The research team suggests that the UGES technique could be applied in systems analysis, enabling better solutions for managing electricity demand. In addition, the proposed IIASA system could help reduce the need for large-scale battery storage systems that are often expensive and require a large amount of land use. Overall, this proposed technique has the potential to revolutionize sustainable energy storage across the planet by utilizing existing infrastructure from decommissioned mines and their gravity energy capabilities.

Read: Study Finds World Can Switch to 100% Renewable Energy and Earn Back Its Investment in Just 6 Years

 Gravity Batteries In A Mine Shaft

The concept of gravity batteries is quite simple: they use potential energy stored in a mine shaft. We can then release this potential energy can be when needed. This provides an efficient way of storing excess energy that solar or wind farms can’t immediately use.

Schematic of how Underground Gravity Energy Storage system could work
Image Credit: IIASA

Scientists have just revealed a gravity battery technology within abandoned mines, which we could use to power the whole planet. The team, led by the University of Geneva (UGEs), has revealed this potential to store energy on a global scale with an estimated 7 to 70 terawatt-hours (TWh) per year of storage potential. This storage is enough to meet the daily electricity consumption of the world, and it would eliminate the need for fossil fuels. 

Hydropower plants power the batteries, and scientists have designed them to store energy from sources like wind and solar using gravity battery technology. This means that a large-scale battery in an abandoned mine shaft or other suitable site collects the generated energy and then stores it until required. Then, we can release it back into the grid to power homes and businesses as needed. This form of storage is more efficient than traditional methods and more cost-effective while offering a safe alternative with minimal environmental impact compared to traditional forms of energy storage like fossil fuels.

Making Use Of Otherwise Unused Space

A recent study conducted by an international team from IIASA and UGES, found that repurposing abandoned underground mines could effectively repurpose decommissioned mines for energy storage. The team proposed a systems analysis and applied various solutions for utilizing underground space for their gravity batteries to operate. 

“When a mine closes, it lays of thousands off workers. This devastates communities that rely on the mine for their economic output. Underground Gravity Energy Storage (UGES) would create a few vacancies as the mine would provide energy storage services after it stops operations,” said Julian Hunt, a researcher at IIASA Energy, Climate, and Environment Program. “Mines already have the basic infrastructure and are connected to the power grid, which significantly reduces the cost and facilitates the implementation of UGES plants.” (2)

The research team found that using gravity batteries has the potential to provide renewable energy solutions across the planet. This makes it possible to store energy within these abandoned underground spaces. The study proposes using existing infrastructure from decommissioned mines and their gravity energy capabilities. We can do this while using other sources of renewable energy. This type of system could be used in various locations on a global scale, with potentially endless possibilities when it comes to efficiently storing renewable energy.

 A Storage Problem

One of the most difficult-to-solve problems with renewable energy has been how to store it. Scientists are now researching ways to better store renewable electricity. This way, it can be ready when we need it to be. Gravity batteries could be a great way to do this. They are abundant in renewable energy sources. Also, they are a great way to try and store the excess energy generated from solar, wind, and other sources. Humanity’s green energy future is looking brighter than ever with this new technology as it can help feed back power into the grid when needed. 

Keep Reading: Researchers use crab shells to create new biodegradable batteries with 99.7% efficiency


  1. Turning abandoned mines into batteries.” IIASA. Julian Hunt, et al. January 12, 2023
  2. Abandoned mines can store enough electricity to power the planet, scientists claim.” Independent. Anthony Cuthbertson. January 18, 2023.