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Finally Operational: Giant “Water Battery” in the Swiss Alps

After 14 years of building, a huge “water battery” in the Swiss Alps is now fully functional. The Nant de Drance Hydropower Plant has a storage capacity of 400,000 automobile batteries.

We have an issue with renewable energy sources: what to do when more electricity is produced than we actually need. Until fusion (fingers crossed for the next few decades/centuries) is capable of meeting all of our power demands, that is. Production from wind and solar farms can exceed demand on extremely windy or sunny days. Storage solutions are required on days when the sun isn’t shining and the wind is calm, despite the fact that this is plainly a better problem than the opposite one and occasionally even results in a situation where consumers are compensated to consume electricity.

For the purpose of storing a sizable amount of this surplus energy, the Nant de Drance Hydropower Plant is one creative option. Although it isn’t exactly a novel concept, it nevertheless works. When demand for electricity exceeds supply from renewable sources, the extra energy is used to pump water from the facility into the reservoir above, the Vieux Emosson. When more power is required, the water can be used by the hydroelectric plant below, which will use it to power turbines as it moves through at 360 cubic meters per second.

Because the energy is “stored” as water at a somewhat higher altitude than before, the concept has been termed a “water battery”. Even while the efficiency isn’t perfect, it is still much better than wasting the extra electricity.

Director Alain Sauthier told Reuters that while there are losses like with any storage, the yield is excellent. “Our overall cycle efficiency is over 80%.”

He continued, “We can flip from producing electricity to storing it in less than ten minutes by changing the direction of spin of the turbines. In order to quickly respond to the needs of the power system and adjust electricity generation and consumption, such flexibility is essential. You run the risk of a grid failure and blackout if you don’t.

Not just Switzerland, but also much of Europe, can receive storage from the plant. It is one of the strongest plants on the continent and is currently fully operational.

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