Hydroelectric engineers find potential in old mine
MINEVILLE, N.Y. — Some look at an abandoned, centuries-old iron mine in New York’s Adirondacks and see a relic.
An ambitious group of engineers sees the shafts in Mineville as a new way to provide a steady flow of electricity in a growing market for renewable energy.
They are pitching a plan to circulate some of the millions of gallons of groundwater that have flooded the mine shafts overtheyearstopoweranarray of 100 hydroelectric turbines a half-mile underground.
They envision the operation as a solution for solar and wind power producers, who need ways to ensure an uninterrupted flow of energy when the sun isn’t shining and winds are still.
“Today, everyone’s recognizing that a critical part of our energy infrastructure is going to be storage,” said Jim Besha, head of Albany Engineering Corp., as he gave officials a tour of the mine site about 100 miles north of Albany. “You can think of it as a bank. If someone has excess solar energy, they would pay a fee to store it overnight.”
While logistically complex, the plan is at the same time incredibly simple: Engineers would drain roughly half of the water from the shafts and pump the remainder into an upper chamber. The water would then be released into a lower chamber, powering turbines and creating electricity. The turbines would be reversed to pump the water back up to repeat the process.
Technically, the pumped water is considered stored energy, to be released strategically when power is needed.