Gravitricity scores Czech mate for ‘virtual power plants’

Edinburgh-based energy storage firm Gravitricity is partnering with Czech firm Nano Energies to expand into the ‘virtual power plant’ market.

Engineers at the Darkov mine in the Czech Republic
Engineers at the Darkov mine in the Czech Republic - Gravitricity

Gravitricity recently announced plans to transform the former Darkov deep mine in the Czech Republic into a gravity energy store using its weight and winch technology. The firm has now signed an MOU with electricity flexibility aggregator Nano Energies to develop commercial routes to market for the site, including via virtual power plants - systems that bring together multiple electricity sources to provide grid balance. Virtual power plants can include cogeneration units, solar parks, biogas and biomass stations, as well as backup generators and demand-side response.

“The Czech Republic is our home market, and we are experts in the field of flexibility aggregation,” said Stanislav Chvála, CEO of Nano Energies. “Gravitricity's technology is able to respond to grid fluctuations very quickly and flexibly in terms of megawatt volume. We could thus involve them in our virtual power plants, which help balance the grid in the way that nowadays primarily coal and gas-fired power plants are able to do.

“It is a long-life technology, well suited to integration with existing grid infrastructure. It can cycle rapidly from charge to discharge without any loss of performance over many years, and it delivers extremely fast response times of less than a second. This makes it a very attractive package to grid operators seeking grid balancing and fast frequency response services.”

The Darkov mine is located in the coal-rich Moravian-Silesian region of the Czech Republic, near the city of Karviná. In February, Gravitricity signed an MOU with DIAMO, the Czech state enterprise charged with mitigating the consequences of coal mining in the country. Both parties will work together to secure funds to turn the decommissioned mine into a 4MW/2MWh energy store – equivalent to the power needs of 16,000 homes. Nano Energies specialises in delivering energy services to countries across Europe including Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania as well as the Czech Republic, many of which are still heavily reliant on coal for their energy needs.

“Our collaboration agreement with Nano Energies will provide a secure route to market for our stored electricity, which recognises the unique and valuable characteristics that our fast response, long life technology can offer,” said Charlie Blair, managing director of Gravitricity.

“We anticipate this will become a commercial blueprint underpinning the financing and rollout of future energy stores Europe-wide.”