An innovative gravity-driven energy storage design from Scottish start-up Gravitricity is being cued up for a first installation in India, following the award of just under £200,000 ($240,000) from the UK government.

The grant paves the way for Gravitricity and its partner on the 12-month project, Panitek Power, to scope out a shortlist of sites for a solar-powered demonstration scheme using the technology, which is based around an array of weights totalling up to 12,000 tonnes being raised and released in deep abandoned mine-shafts.

“India has very few fossil fuel resources and is committed to adopting renewables to fuel its economic growth,” said Chris Yendell, Gravitricity’s project development manager. “With the introduction of renewable energy generation at this scale, new flexible storage services will be essential to ensure the grid continues to operate in a stable manner.”

The Gravitricity concept, he said, could provide “balancing services” with a “relatively simple technology… [that] doesn’t rely on any rare-earth metals, and has a very long lifespan” of around 50 years, meaning it could be built adjacent to power infrastructure as the grid expanded to meet growing national power demand.

Parag Vyas, Panitek’s chief commercial officer, said: “India has an immediate and growing need for energy storage technologies. “In many locations there is little or no grid, and it makes sense to integrate energy storage within their evolving infrastructure to cope with intermittent generation.

“As the country’s share of renewables rises, this can cause frequency and voltage disturbances in the existing grid due to mismatch of load demand and generation. Gravitricity’s technology has a response time of less than one second and can be cycled thousands of times, making it ideally suited to grid balancing and rapid frequency response services.”

The cost proposition of the gravity-based storage is seen as promising. Recent research at London’s Imperial College calculated electricity discharged by an in-market 10MW lithium-ion battery project would cost $367 (£283) per megawatt-hour over its lifetime, compared to $171/MWh for a Gravitricity system.

These economics could fit India to a tee as the world’s most popiulous nation progresses toward its hugely ambitious target of installing over 500GW of renewables by 2030, up from 100GW last year.

Gravitricity technology is currently being piloted in the UK, Finland, Poland, the Czech Republic and South Africa, where mine-shafts can be more than 2,000 metres deep.