The rocky seabed under the North Sea could be used as a large-scale renewable energy store.
That’s the verdict from researchers at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Strathclyde, who say underwater wells drilled into the porous sandstone bedrock could be pumped full of pressurised air using excess electricity.
This compressed air would provide a reservoir able to provide energy on demand – when it is needed, it could be released through a turbine, generating what the study suggests could be a relatively large amount of electricity.
The scientists note clean power could be sent down into such stores directly from offshore wind facilities during periods of high generation and then released at a later date when demand outstrips supply.
This would allow more intermittent renewables to be supported and enable the UK to meet its growing power demand without relying on climate-harming fossil fuels.
Dr Julien Mouli-Castillo, from the University of Edinburgh, said: “This method could make it possible to store renewable energy produced in the summer for those chilly winter nights.
“It can provide a viable, though expensive, option to ensure the UK’s renewable electricity supply is resilient between seasons. More research could help to refine the process and bring costs down.”