Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Science & Technology: Abandoned Geothermal Energy Wells can be Repurposed as Energy Storage Facilities

To hit climate goals, Bill Gates and his billionaire friends are betting on energy storage (Quartz)

Quidnet Energy co-founder Aaron Mandell (also co-founder of Altarock) says this abandoned well at the Blue Mountain Geothermal Area in Nevada could store up to 30 megawatt-hours of electricity in the form of compressed water. (Aaron Mandell via Twitter)

The world needs radical new energy technologies to fight climate change. In 2016, Quartz reported that a group of billionaires—including Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Jack Ma, Mukesh Ambani, and Richard Branson—launched Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) to invest at least $1 billion in creating those technologies.

Now, 18 months later, Quartz can reveal the first two startups that BEV will be investing in: Form Energy and Quidnet Energy. Both companies are developing new technologies to store energy, but taking completely different approaches to achieve that goal.

Quidnet’s technology uses water to store energy, but without the need for rivers or dams. Instead, it uses excess electricity to pump water into the underground shale rock found in new wells dug for the purpose or in abandoned oil-and-gas wells. After water fills up tiny cracks in the rock, forcing more in creates pressure, which compresses shale like a spring. When energy is needed, the pressure is let off and the water that gushes out is used to run turbines that re-generate electricity.

Before BEV’s investment, Quidnet had raised $1.5 million through the Clean Energy Venture Group and Prime Coalition. In 2016, the startup ran tests in Texas and Nevada to show that the technology can work. Next, it will use the $6.4 million raised through BEV and Evok Innovations on more field trials to develop the technology, which, according to Joe Zhou, the company’s CEO, can offer energy storage at much lower costs than pumped hydro, while avoiding the inherent disadvantages of building dams and surface reservoirs.

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