UK pumped storage scheme may lead to others

Posted: November 21, 2015 by oldbrew in Energy, turbines

Dinorwig Power Station in Wales [image credit:  Denis Egan @ Wikipedia]

Dinorwig Power Station in Wales [image credit: Denis Egan @ Wikipedia]

It has to be said this scheme looks very small against the massive Dinorwig set-up (1,728 MW). This type of facility can use surplus off-peak (e.g. overnight) wind power to pump the water up to the top, then send it back down by gravity at any required time to spin the turbines and generate ‘instant’ electricity.

An application has been submitted to begin development on a 99.9 MW pumped hydropower storage facility in Wales, the project’s developers have announced.

The £160m ($244m) project is to be undertaken by Snowdonia Pumped Hydro, a subsidiary of Quarry Battery Company (QBC), which has already received planning permission to develop 50 MW at Glyn Rhonwy near Llanberis. The developers now aim to double the plant’s output by increasing the capacity of the underground turbines and associated equipment. The project will re-purpose two abandoned slate quarries, and is expected to have an operational life of around 125 years.

Earlier this year SPH reached an agreement to lease 13 ha of land for the scheme from the UK government. Glyn Rhonwy represents the first of a series of pumped storage schemes the company aims to develop.

QBC said it had recently submitted evidence to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) demonstrating how a 10 GW fleet of pumped hydro schemes to be built around the UK could cut £3.5 billion per year from the cost of decarbonising the grid, reduce carbon emissions by 5 million tonnes per year, and make the UK’s electricity supply more secure.

Source: Pumped storage project developers aim to boost capacity – Power Engineering International

  1. oldbrew says:

    Re the Dinorwig picture: most of the power station is inside the mountain e.g. 16 kilometres of tunnels.

    Quote: ‘The monitoring of popular television channels is an important factor in electricity grid control centres.’

  2. Graeme No.3 says:

    There you are – just build 10GW of pumped storage and all your troubles, except one, will be gone.
    Where are these previously ignored sites?

  3. Fanakapan says:

    Another company looking for a white elephant handout ?

    Get Fracking, and build gas power stations, the only obvious solution 🙂

  4. Colin says:

    In situations like this, best to consult “With The Hot Air”

  5. ivan says:

    A typical green tell you nothing press release.

    All of these scams may give the nameplate output of the generator but they steer very clear of telling you the amount of water needed to produce that output which means that no one can calculate just how long that output will last before they have to stop and pump it all back again.

    Without running time and pumping time what they say is not worth the paper it is printed on.

    Another thing that I see they don’t mention – replenishing water loss. That is no problem if there is a river near that can have some of the water diverted to make up for evaporation and other natural losses, if there isn’t – whoops.

  6. Joe Public says:

    Dinorwig stores 9.1GW of energy, and is capable of delivering at 1.7 GW for 5 hours. I’ve not found how long it takes to ‘recharge’ its 6.7m m3 up 542m – 494m ‘head’. No doubt a damn sight longer than 5 hours.

    The UK’s 4x major hydro storage can store ~30GW, and if all four are switched on simultaneously,
    they can produce a power of 2.8 GW. However this capacity of 2.8 GW is not enough to
    replace 10 GW or 33 GW of wind power if it suddenly went missing.


  7. oldbrew says:

    No subsidies needed?

    ‘Pumped storage is an extremely flexible method of storing large quantities of potential energy and highly profitable. All four United Kingdom pumped storage schemes are owned directly or indirectly by electricity supply companies, and make substantial net income from the peak energy market.’

    Joe P: ‘It also takes seven hours to pump the water up to the Marchlyn Mawr reservoir, however will only generate power for five hours.’

    It uses at least 33% more electricity than it produces, so it’s all about instant availability (12 seconds to max output) for peak loads on the system.

  8. ntesdorf says:

    “It uses at least 33% more electricity than it produces, so it’s all about instant availability (12 seconds to max output) for peak loads on the system.” So it is not the first successful perpetual-motion machine. It may be just more green hand waving lacking hard mathematics on its benefits. It’s more like a perpetual-notion machine.

  9. oldbrew says:

    There’s no mystery, it’s just economics. It pumps water uphill at the cheapest rates of electricity then uses that water to generate its own power at the most profitable rates.

  10. thefordprefect says:

    oldbrew says: November 21, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    It uses at least 33% more electricity than it produces, so it’s all about instant availability (12 seconds to max output) for peak loads on the system.
    Not quite true – more like 25%

    Click to access hydrosite05.pdf

  11. Note: GWh, MWh, kWh and Wh are energy; GW, MW, kW and W are power.
    Power, multiplied by the time over which it’s delivered is energy.
    Wh (etc.) are non-core units of energy. They should be using joules (J), but then they have to multiply by 3600 to get watt-seconds instead of watt-hours.

    A careless mixing of units of energy and power prevents the communication of useful information. i.e. makes gibberish.

    Pumped storage GWh is the maximum total energy that can be usefully generated from the storage; GW is the maximum (electrical) power that can be continuously generated at an “instant”; until it runs out of storage.

    If the author’s objective is to enlighten and not to puzzle, then extra care must be taken as there are readers to whom those things are more than just words.

  12. manicbeancounter says:

    I visited Dinorwig for the second time about four years ago. It was designed for coping for peak demand of a few hours, by utilizing surplus electricity available at night. This was when in the 1970s it seemed that an increasing proportion of electricity would be generated by nuclear power.
    Something I found surprising is that this fantastic feat of engineering had not been used at full capacity for years. The last time was when at peak demand there had been an emergency shut down of a coal-fired power station. There is a reason for this. The top-level reservoir can only contain water for about five hours of electricity production at full load. To use in a renewables context you need to have a much larger reservoir to allow for no wind for days on end, and even then you need some backup. Pump storage is not only more expensive than the alternative – quick start-up gas-fired power stations, it also makes the costs per unit electricity produced by conventional power stations high by reducing their capacity utilization.

  13. dp says:

    Does everyone understand that pumped storage is a net consumer of energy and not an energy source? And that you need two reservoirs and a steady supply to replenish water lost to natural causes? I was surprised how few people think about that. Do you really have that much over-capacity? Lastly – this allows the energy companies to avoid providing overnight low-cost energy as these boondoggles compete for over-capacity thus holding rates high 24/7 – simply supply/demand math. Do you really want that? This entire enterprise in fact is maximizing profits while doing nothing for reliability.

    Now consider the consequences of depending upon wind and solar to fill the upper reservoir and they both fail. Not uncommon in the winter when energy is most dear. Now your fossil fuel has to provide on-demand energy needs and refill the reservoir. None of this is consumer-friendly. I would expect the winter death rate of UK elderly citizens to go up even higher but that is not something that is getting a lot of attention anyway.

    Then ask yourself in your environment how many times can you soak/drain your reservoir before the banks begin to slough into the basin, possibly dangerously, but resulting in lost capacity? And finally – how many hours, yes hours, not days, weeks, months, of capacity will all this provide? The number is often surprisingly small, the surprise usually depending upon which side of the issue you are on. Really not unlike buying a use car.

  14. oldbrew says:

    According to ‘the greenage’ website:
    ‘As one might expect pumping the water back up into Marchlyn Mawr (the top reservoir) is significantly more energy intensive than the energy it provides when working as a power station, in fact it uses almost 33% more energy to get the water back up than it produces. ‘

    Advantages: full output in 12 seconds, long life (100 years +), up to 5 hours of power.
    Disadvantages: 7 hours to ‘recharge’, net user of electricity.

    TFP says: ‘Not quite true – more like 25%’

    No, it imports 1 MWh to export 0.75 MWh according to your link.
    So 4 units in = 3 units out and 4/3 = 1.33
    4 is ~33% more than 3.

  15. Petrossa says:

    Whilst in France hydro in any form is but a tiny fraction (around 3% if i remember well) their 56 nuclear reactors pump out 82% of the electricity needed, 24/7 for over 50 years now. As such the nation is practically carbon neutral. Which poses a problem since EU directives force nations to get up to 16% ‘renewables’ by 2020. And nuclear doesn’t count as ‘renewable’ So now France is in the idiotic situation thy have to build huge wind and solar farms for which they have no need.

  16. oldbrew says:

    France’s attempt to build a new nuclear plant is not going well.

    ‘French utility EDF has put back the start-up date of the EPR unit under construction at Flamanville by about one year while the cost of the project has now tripled from its original estimate.’

    ‘Construction work began on the unit, adjacent to two existing pressurized water reactors, at the Normandy site in northern France in 2007, when capital construction costs were estimated at €3.3 billion (2005 values) with commercial operation pencilled in for 2013.’

    ‘The loading of fuel and start up of the reactor is now expected to take place in the last quarter of 2018.’

    So they are five years behind schedule now. This is the design they hope to build in the UK at Hinkley Point.

  17. tallbloke says:

  18. Fanakapan says:

    A look at, which reveals that these projects are entirely predicated upon the idea that ‘Wind Power’ will be increasing, which as we now know is a fiction as far as On Shore windmills are concerned, and likely so in the case of Off Shore due to the massive costs ?

    Add in apparent involvement by every body’s favourite heir and Green Activist,

    Combine with the put more in to get less out aspect, and as dp above highlights, we have a Classic Boondoggle

    It’ll no doubt get taxpayer backing via a government eager to support its mates in the heavy construction industry, and the likely effect of creating 20 long term jobs in what must be an employment desert 🙂

  19. Anoneumouse says:

    My kids learned how to fill a header tank at nursery school, The eldest went on to be a physicist who works at Sellafield. The youngest is a police officer currently on the sick due to an injury after moving on anti fracking campaigners in Lancashire.

    I think my header tank shows the better return.

  20. dp says:

    Pumped storage is literally energy you buy twice. And when demand for cheap off-hours energy drives up the cost of off-hours energy the total cost goes up and stays up. It approaches a Ponzi scheme in which you get less total energy capacity because of wasted energy during the pump up. It also reduces the entire system reliability by putting the weakest link, renewables, in the critical path of energy provisioning. Rolling brownouts will happen with the least influential regions most frequently absorbing the misery of brownout management. This, btw, is a natural consequence of not having parity between unreliable renewable and reliable energy sources.

  21. Jerry says:

    For another example of this philosophy, check out Grand Coulee dam on the Columbia River in Washington State, USA. The turbines pump water 600 feet uphill during the night, when power demands are low. During the day, when peak power loads occur, the water is then run downhill and back through the turbines to generate power. This system has been in successful operation for decades.

  22. Nebitt J. Throttle-Flange says:

    IIRC the power station under Ben Cruichan near Oban was the World’s first pumped storage facility, and celebrated 50 years in use in 2015.

    When we visited the display said they had earmarked another 30+ suitable sites in Scotland but funding never arrived to continue. Ben Cruichan also benefits from surplus water from the mountain – it could run at 25% capacity apparently without pumping water back up…

  23. KeithW says:

    The main reason that Dinorwig and Cruachan were built was that they provide dispatchable energy at the drop of a hat. They can be brought on line in seconds to meet unforseen peak loads. They are now tasked as a short term operating reserve to meet grid emergencies. However they can only run for a few hours at best and are around 75% eifficent which means a quarter of the power generated by primary producers is lost.

    I find it interesting that schemes that involve hollowing out mountains and hauling away colossal amounts of rubble is allowed in national parks where fracking is banned.

    Cruachan involved removing 220,000 cubic metres of rock, 4000 people were employed for 6 years on the project and 36 were killed in accidents with numerous others dying later from silicosis.

    Dinorwig involved excavating 12 miles of tunnels and a total of 12 million tonnes of rock. Its construction required 1 million tonnes of concrete, 200,000 tonnes of cement and 4,500 tonnes of steel. Construction employed 3000 workers over a 10 year period. Drilling a hole and leaving a wellhead in place the size of a garden shed is however considered to be desecrating the landscape. Only in the lala land inhabited by Greens does this make sense.

  24. AlecM says:

    Dinowic is a strategic asset. Its purpose is to give a Grid ‘Black Start’

  25. kwillshaw says:

    Dinorwig is indeed tasked for that purpose NOW, when it was built however there was never any such need since CEGB always maintained enough reserve capacity that it was unlikely ever to happen. Even during the miners strike when we had rolling blackouts there was enough other capacity in the form of Nuclear and Oil Fired stations to keep it going. One of the main planks of CEGB planning was diversity of supply for fuel

    The nukes are fading away as they reach end of life, all the oil stations are gone. It would have been so bad if they had at least been mothballed but even the relatively modern Isle of Grain station is now being demolished. The trouble with the gas stations is that you really cant stockpile fuel on the same scale as you can with oil or coal so with North Sea gas in decline a major supply problem could see the UK virtually bereft of energy.

    If we ever have to do a black start this is a MAJOR disaster, complete restoration could take days.

    Prior to Privatization every power station was required to have its own black start capability and the grid had 7 control rooms and 12 Distribution Network Operator control centres so sections of the grid could be isolated and started separately.

    As of 2015 we have just one Grid central room. If we lose that god help us. There are now 8 DNO’s instead of 12.

    Bottom line is that we have a combination of greater requirement for electrical power AND a less resilient National Grid than has ever been seen before.

  26. oldbrew says:

    The EU is pushing for a European energy union.

    ‘Among the aims of the Energy Union is to bring together energy and climate policies and to pursue the decarbonisation agenda in the energy sector.’

    ‘Bring together’ = we tell your country what it can and can’t do re energy policy

  27. Wayne Job says:

    Using windmills to pump water is a fine old technology, Get rid of the generators and lay pipelines instead of wires, then using modern high horse power wind turbines with mechanical pumps, you have cheap peak power. Low maintenance and no complications. Duh