Can we store GWh

We are interested in making much bigger storage systems, storing a total of 1200 GWh (about 130 times what Dinorwig stores). And we'd like the capacity to be about 20 GW - about ten times bigger than Dinorwig's. So here is the pumped storage solution: we have to imagine creating roughly 12 new sites, each storing 100 GWh - roughly ten times the energy stored in Dinorwig. The pumping and generating hardware at each site would be the same as Dinorwig's.

Assuming the generators have an efficiency of 90%, table 26.7 shows a few ways of storing 100 GWh, for a range of height drops. (For the physics behind this table, see this chapter's endnotes.)

Ways to store 100 GWh

drop from

working volume

example size

upper lake

required

of lake

(million m3)

area depth

500 m

40

2km2x20m

500 m

40

4 km2 x 10 m

200 m

100

5km2x20m

200 m

100

10 km2 x 10 m

100 m

200

10km2x20m

100 m

200

20 km2 x 10 m

Table 26.7. Pumped storage. Ways to store 100 GWh. For comparison with column 2, the working volume of Dinorwig is 7 million m3, and the volume of Lake Windermere is 300 million m3. For comparison with column 3, Rutland water has an area of 12.6 km2; Grafham water 7.4km2. Carron valley reservoir is 3.9 km2. The largest lake in Great Britain is Loch Lomond, with an area of 71 km2.

Is it plausible that twelve such sites could be found? Certainly, we could build several more sites like Dinorwig in Snowdonia alone. Table 26.8 shows two alternative sites near to Ffestiniog where two facilities equal to Dinorwig could have been built. These sites were considered alongside Dinorwig in the 1970s, and Dinorwig was chosen.

proposed power head volume energy stored location (GW) (m) (million m3) (GWh)

Bowydd Croesor

250 310

Table 26.8. Alternative sites for pumped storage facilities in Snowdonia. At both these sites the lower lake would have been a new artificial reservoir.

Pumped-storage facilities holding significantly more energy than Di-norwig could be built in Scotland by upgrading existing hydroelectric facilities. Scanning a map of Scotland, one candidate location would use Loch Sloy as its upper lake and Loch Lomond as its lower lake. There is already a small hydroelectric power station linking these lakes. Figure 26.9 shows these lakes and the Dinorwig lakes on the same scale. The height

Site Peris

Figure 26.9. Dinorwig, in the Snowdonia National Park, compared with Loch Sloy and Loch Lomond. The upper maps show 10 km by 10 km areas. In the lower maps the blue grid is made of 1 km squares. Images produced from Ordnance Survey's Get-a-map service www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/getamap. Images reproduced with permission of Ordnance Survey. © Crown Copyright 2006.

Dinorwig is the home of a 9GWh storage system, using Marchlyn Mawr (615E, 620N) and Llyn Peris (590E,598N) as its upper and lower reservoirs.

Loch Sloy illustrates the sort of location where a 40GWh storage system could be created.

Dinorwig is the home of a 9GWh storage system, using Marchlyn Mawr (615E, 620N) and Llyn Peris (590E,598N) as its upper and lower reservoirs.

Loch Sloy illustrates the sort of location where a 40GWh storage system could be created.

Figure 26.9. Dinorwig, in the Snowdonia National Park, compared with Loch Sloy and Loch Lomond. The upper maps show 10 km by 10 km areas. In the lower maps the blue grid is made of 1 km squares. Images produced from Ordnance Survey's Get-a-map service www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/getamap. Images reproduced with permission of Ordnance Survey. © Crown Copyright 2006.

100 km

difference between Loch Sloy and Loch Lomond is about 270 m. Sloy's area is about 1.5 km2, and it can already store an energy of 20GWh. If Loch Sloy's dam were raised by another 40 m then the extra energy that could be stored would be about 40 GWh. The water level in Loch Lomond would change by at most 0.8 m during a cycle. This is less than the normal range of annual water level variations of Loch Lomond (2 m).

Figure 26.10 shows 13 locations in Scotland with potential for pumped storage. (Most of them already have a hydroelectric facility.) If ten of these had the same potential as I just estimated for Loch Sloy, then we could store 400 GWh - one third of the total of 1200 GWh that we were aiming for.

We could scour the map of Britain for other locations. The best locations would be near to big wind farms. One idea would be to make a new artificial lake in a hanging valley (across the mouth of which a dam would w

Figure 26.10. Lochs in Scotland with potential for pumped storage.

be built) terminating above the sea, with the sea being used as the lower lake.

Thinking further outside the box, one could imagine getting away from lakes and reservoirs, putting half of the facility in an underground chamber. A pumped-storage chamber one kilometre below London has been mooted.

By building more pumped storage systems, it looks as if we could increase our maximum energy store from 30GWh to 100 GWh or perhaps 400 GWh. Achieving the full 1200 GWh that we were hoping for looks tough, however. Fortunately there is another solution.

Demand management using electric vehicles

To recap our requirements: we'd like to be able to store or do without about 1200 GWh, which is 20kWh per person; and to cope with swings in supply of up to 33 GW - that's 0.5 kW per person. These numbers are delightfully similar in size to the energy and power requirements of electric cars. The electric cars we saw in Chapter 20 had energy stores of between 9 kWh and 53 kWh. A national fleet of 30 million electric cars would store an energy similar to 20 kWh per person! Typical battery chargers draw a power of 2 or 3 kW. So simultaneously switching on 30 million battery chargers would create a change in demand of about 60 GW! The average power required to power all the nation's transport, if it were all electric, is roughly 40 or 50 GW. There's therefore a close match between the adoption of electric cars proposed in Chapter 20 and the creation of roughly 33 GW

Figure 26.11. Okinawa pumped-storage power plant, whose lower reservoir is the ocean. Energy stored: 0.2 GWh. Photo by courtesy of J-Power. www. ieahydro . org.

of wind capacity, delivering 10 GW of power on average.

Here's one way this match could be exploited: electric cars could be plugged in to smart chargers, at home or at work. These smart chargers would be aware both of the value of electricity, and of the car user's requirements (for example, "my car must be fully charged by 7am on Monday morning"). The charger would sensibly satisfy the user's requirements by guzzling electricity whenever the wind blows, and switching off when the wind drops, or when other forms of demand increase. These smart chargers would provide a useful service in balancing to the grid, a service which could be rewarded financially.

We could have an especially robust solution if the cars' batteries were exchangeable. Imagine popping in to a filling station and slotting in a set of fresh batteries in exchange for your exhausted batteries. The filling station would be responsible for recharging the batteries; they could do this at the perfect times, turning up and down their chargers so that total supply and demand were always kept in balance. Using exchangeable batteries is an especially robust solution because there could be millions of spare batteries in the filling stations' storerooms. These spare batteries would provide an extra buffer to help us get through wind lulls. Some people say, "Horrors! How could I trust the filling station to look after my batteries for me? What if they gave me a duff one?" Well, you could equally well ask today "What if the filling station gave me petrol laced with water?" Myself, I'd much rather use a vehicle maintained by a professional than by a muppet like me!

Let's recap our options. We can balance fluctuating demand and fluctuating supply by switching on and off power generators (waste incinerators and hydroelectric stations, for example); by storing energy somewhere and regenerating it when it's needed; or by switching demand off and on.

The most promising of these options, in terms of scale, is switching on and off the power demand of electric-vehicle charging. 30 million cars, with 40kWh of associated batteries each (some of which might be exchangeable batteries sitting in filling stations) adds up to 1200 GWh. If freight delivery were electrified too then the total storage capacity would be bigger still.

There is thus a beautiful match between wind power and electric vehicles. If we ramp up electric vehicles at the same time as ramping up wind power, roughly 3000 new vehicles for every 3 MW wind turbine, and if we ensure that the charging systems for the vehicles are smart, this synergy would go a long way to solving the problem of wind fluctuations. If my prediction about hydrogen vehicles is wrong, and hydrogen vehicles turn out to be the low-energy vehicles of the future, then the wind-with-electric-vehicles match-up that I've just described could of course be replaced by a wind-with-hydrogen match-up. The wind turbines would make electricity; and whenever electricity was plentiful, hydrogen would be produced and stored in tanks, for subsequent use in vehicles or in other applications, such as glass production.

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