This giant ‘water battery’ under the Alps could be a game-changer for renewable energy in Europe – CNN

by | Aug 1, 2022 | Energy

Beginning operations last month, the water battery, called Nant de Drance, is a pumped storage hydropower plant that provides the same energy storage capacity as 400,000 electric car batteries.Located high in the Swiss Alps in the canton of Valais, the plant is equipped with agile, reversible turbines that offer new levels of flexibility, says Robert Gleitz, a delegate of the board of directors of Nant de Drance: with the flick of a switch, the plant can go from storing energy to providing electricity.The massive project took 14 years to complete. Around 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) of subterranean tunnels were excavated through the Alps while the six turbines are stored 600 meters (1970 feet) below ground, in a giant cavern the length of two football fields. Nant de Drance repurposed two existing reservoirs, raising the upper one by 21.5 meters (71 feet) to double its capacity — it now holds more water than 6,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools. As one of the largest facilities of its kind, the $2 billion project could play a vital role in stabilizing Europe’s electricity grid as the continent transitions to renewable energy, says Gleitz.Making a splash Pumped storage hydropower plants, which have been around for over a century, are particularly important for renewable energy because wind and solar rely heavily on the weather and don’t provide a consistent power supply.”We can take energy (from the grid) when there is too much, and generate it again when it’s needed,” says Gleitz. Unlike many of the plants that preceded it, Nant de Drance uses variable speed pump-turbines, says Pascal Radue, CEO of GE Renewable Energy Hydro which supplied equipment for the facility.The turbines help to stabilize the electricity grid, says Radue. “With a fixed speed turbine, you have to wait until the power plant is running at exactly the right speed to be synchronize …

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