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General, Generation Technologies - Already in the World, New Zealand Electrical System

#16 Pumped Storage – A Solution Staring Us In The Face

To achieve 100% renewable electricity in New Zealand is so simple it is sad we have not yet done it. While other countries are making a lot of effort we have no plans and no high level strategy.  The technology to achieve it is already here and it is already proven.  More wind and a pumped storage scheme is all we need.

Pumped Storage – an easy way to achieve 100% renewable electricity in New Zealand

The “More Wind” side of the equation is a renewable energy solution that we are all familiar with, but it brings a very small challenge with it (as do most renewables).  That is, how to use the energy when you need it, not just when the wind is blowing?  While the renewables “Storage” issue is problematic for other countries that don’t already have a flexible hydro system and don’t have access to mountainous topography, for New Zealand, since we have both of these assets pumped storage is the perfect solution.

A paper by the Electric Power Research Institute in the US. Entitled Electricity Energy Storage Technology Options, says that “While many forms of energy storage have been installed, pumped hydro systems are by far the most widely used, with more than 127,000 MW installed worldwide.”  The next closest options are compressed air energy storage, with just 440 MW, and sodium-sulphur batteries at 316 MW.  There are also numerous other imaginative energy storage option that get thrown around by bloggers, but the fact remains today that the only option for energy storage in the foreseeable future that can be deployed on a large scale is Pumped Storage.

Yes, in New Zealand we might need some gas as a back up for the extremely dry years, but don’t forget that with more wind generation, we will also consume a lot less of our hydro storage so will be less exposed to dry years.  An interesting potential large scale pumped storage site is the Onslow-Manorburn depression, and this had been the subject of a thesis study at the University of Waikato.  You can read more about it [here], however there are also many numerous other sites that could be explored.

A snapshot of some pumped storage activity around the world, currently under construction or very recently completed follows.  Yes it is already happening, and has been for some time – lets do it New Zealand, lets gain a place of predominance in the New Green Economy.  Here at FreeNRG4NZ we look forward to the headline – “New Zealand Goes 100% Renewable for Electricity Generation”.

Limberg 2 – The 480 MW Limberg 2 project, owned by Verbund Austrian Hydro Power AG, and currently under construction, is also set to expand pumped-storage capacity in Austria.  The project is using two existing storage reservoirs, and the underground powerhouse will contain two pump-turbine units.

Limmern – Kraftwerke Linth-Limmern AG is developing the 1,000 MW Limmern project in LinthalValley in eastern Switzerland.  An underground powerhouse will contain four 250 MW reversible vertical Francis pump-turbines and four 280 MVA vertical asynchronous motor-generator units. The plant will pump water from existing LakeLimmern into the existing LakeMutt, although a new gravity dam will be built at the Muttsee Reservoir to increase its storage capacity.  The first of the four units is expected to begin operating in 2015

Nant de Drance tunnel breakthrough – if you want a meaningful Keynesian style project pumped storage is it!

Nant de Drance – The 600 MW Nant de Drance project in southwest Switzerland is being developed by Nant de Drance SA, a joint venture of energy provider Alpiq, federal railway group SBB, and Forces Motrices Valaisannes. Nant de Drance will utilize the height difference between two existing reservoirs to produce about 1.5 TWh of peaking power each year.  The project will feature an underground powerhouse with four 157 MW vertical Francis reversible pump-turbines and four 170 MVA vertical asynchronous motor-generators.  The project is expected to begin operating in 2015, becoming fully operational by 2017.  Investors are examining the possibility of increasing capacity to 900 MW.

Qingyuan – CSG Power Generation Company, a group company of China Southern Power Grid Co. Ltd., is developing the 1,280 MW Qingyuan Pumped-Storage Power Station in GuangdongProvince.  The powerhouse will contain four 320 MW units consisting of pump-turbines, motor-generators, and associated equipment. Equipment installation is scheduled to begin in January 2012, and the first unit at Qingyuan is expected to be commissioned in October 2014.

Reisseck 2 – Austrian utility Verbund Austrian Hydro Power AG is moving forward with construction of the 430-MW Reisseck 2 project. This project is an addition to the six-plant, 138.1 MW Reisseck/Kreuzeck complex in Upper Carinthia.  For this facility, a 5 km-long tunnel will connect the Reisseck storage reservoir with the 730 MW Malta Hauptstufe plant. The existing Grosser Muhldorfer See Reservoir will be used as an upper reservoir in pump operation while the lower reservoirs will be the Gosskar and Galgenbichl reservoirs of the Malta power plant group.

Avce – The 185 MW Avce plant began producing electricity in April 2010 on the SocaRiver in Slovenia. Soske Elektrarne Nova Gorica d.o.o. developed the €122 million ($164 million) project to allow the country to use its nighttime electricity surplus to pump water into Avce’s upper reservoir so that electricity can be produced when prices are high.  The upper reservoir was built in a natural depression, using embankments to increase its storage capacity. The existing Ajba reservoir of the Plave hydro plant serves as the lower reservoir. The underground powerhouse contains a variable speed reversible vertical Francis pump-turbine.

Dnister – The first unit at the 2,268 MW Dnister pumped-storage plant began operating in January 2010. This plant, on the DnisterRiver in Ukraine, is being developed by UkrHydro Open Joint Stock Company.  Construction of this project began in 1983 and is anticipated to cost UAH5.8 billion ($720 million). The first unit is expected to produce 240 GWh in 2010.  The second and third units are due to be operational in 2011 and 2012, respectively. In total, the plant is to contain seven identical units.

Jixi – The 1,800 MW Jixi pumped-storage project began operating in July 2010 in Anhui Province, China.  This project’s two reservoirs have a total storage volume of 21.85 million m3. Jixi is co-funded by State Grid, East China Grid, Jiangsu Electric Power, Shanghai Electric Power, Xuangcheng municipal government, and the local government. The total investment amounts to CNY8.2 billion ($1.2 billion).

Baixo Sabor – Local utility Energias de Portugal (EDP) is building the 171 MW Baixo Sabor project on the SaborRiver in northern Portugal. Baixo Sabor is being built as part of a government plan to boost hydroelectric power production in Portugal.  The project features two dams and two powerhouses, one containing two 70 MW pump-turbine units and the other containing two reversible 15.5 MW units.

Feldsee – In Carinthia, Austria, work is proceeding on the installation of a second 75 MW unit at the existing 140 MW Feldsee project. The first unit began operating in September 2009.

There are other pumped storage facilities under construction around the world (and many more in the planning stages), you can read more on pumped storage here >


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Contributions sought for this blog > If you have ideas on how New Zealand can move towards 100% renewable electricity as the first step and then onward towards full energy independence - contact us. Lets all work together to get the conversation moving more.


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