Pumped hydroelectric storage in Wales

Percussionists at WestFest 2009

Snowdonia contains more than just some of the United Kingdom’s finest mountains. From a climate and energy perspective, the Dinorwig Power Station is rather interesting. It has a maximum output of about 1800 megawatts (MW) and was intended to store excess power from nuclear stations, during periods when their output exceeded demand.

The system takes only 16 seconds to ramp up to full output, and can maintain it for six hours. Because of backup batteries and diesel generators, Dinorwig is also able to restart itself even if the rest of the national grid has failed. The facilities two reservoirs are separated by 500m of vertical distance, and it stores about nine gigawatt-hours (GWh) of total energy. It is 75% efficient at turning surplus electrical energy into gravitational potential energy in raised water, and then back into electricity again at times of peak demand. Since it can buy electricity at times when demand is minimal (thus making the power cheap) and sell it when power was expensive, it was able to pay itself off in ten years. Along with three other British facilities, there is a total pumped storage capacity of 2.8GW.

This is a technology that could make a lot of sense for Canada. As we build more renewables – such as wind farms – there will be periods of excess energy production. By building new pumped hydroelectric facilities, or adding the capacity to existing dams, we will have a way to store some of that for when it is needed.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

8 thoughts on “Pumped hydroelectric storage in Wales”

  1. “The nation’s largest energy storage option right now is pumped hydroelectricity. When excess electricity is present in a system, it can be used to pump water up to a reservoir. Then, when that power is needed, the water is sent through a turbine to generate electricity. The U.S. electric system has 2.5 gigawatts of pumped hydro storage capacity, but most of the good, cheap sites are already occupied, and creating new reservoirs is not environmentally benign.”

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  3. Kannagawa Hydropower Plant
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The Kannagawa Hydropower Plant is an under construction pumped-storage hydroelectric power plant near Minamiaiki in Nagano Prefecture and Gunma Prefecture, Japan. The power plant utilizes the Minamiaiki River along with an upper and lower reservoir created by two dams, the upper Minamiaiki Dam and the lower Ueno Dam. The power station in between the two dams will contain six 470 MW pump-generators for a total installed capacity of 2,820 MW. Only Unit 1 has commenced commercial operation and did so in 2005. When completed, the plant will have the largest pumped-storage power capacity in the world.

  4. The Siah Bisheh Pumped Storage Power Plant, also spelled Siyāhbisheh and Siah Bishe, is currently under construction in the Albors Mountain range near the village of Siah Bisheh and 48 km (30 mi) south of Chalus in Mazandaran Province, Iran. The power plant will use the pumped-storage hydroelectric method to generate electricity during periods of high energy demand, making it a peaking power plant, intended to fulfill peak electricity demand in Tehran 60 km (37 mi) to the south. When complete it will have an installed generating capacity of 1,040 MW and a pumping capacity of 940 MW. Planning for the project began in the 1970s and construction began in 1985. It was delayed from 1992 until 2001 and was expected to be complete in 2011. The power plant will be the first pumped-storage type in Iran and will also use the country’s first concrete-face rock-fill dam – two of them.

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