What is Pump Storage Hydro?

What is Pump Storage Hydro?

The wind doesn’t always blow, the sun doesn’t always shine. It can’t be relied on to match consumer demand for electricity, meaning other sources of generation are need to be ready as back up i.e. gas, coal or nuclear.

Currently renewable generation is switched off when not required (curtailment). This means that potential renewable energy is wasted, and National Grid currently pay developers to switch off generation. Last year they paid over £125M in curtailment charges to wind farm operators, these charges are recouped by National Grid through consumer energy bills.

Pump Storage Hydro offers a way to store excess renewable energy at times when demand is not required so it can be stored until needed. The system uses electricity to pump water from a lower reservoir to a higher reservoir. This pumping happens at times when there is more energy being produced on the grid network than is needed. This energy is stored until it is required, when the water is allowed to flow back through a hydro-turbine, generating electricity to meet sudden or predicted spikes in consumer demand.

This cycle of pumping and generating repeats daily as required. Pumped storage utilises excess generated electricity when consumer demand is low and generates electricity when demand increases.

A typical conventional pumped storage hydro power plant consists of four components:

1. Water reservoirs: normally two interconnected water reservoirs.

2. Water piping: tunnels that allow moving water from one reservoir to another.

3. Powerhouse: facility with one or more pump/turbine and motor/generator assemblies that allow pumping water into the upper reservoir at off-peak hours and discharging water into the lower reservoir.

4. Grid connection: power transmission lines to move the generated power from the plant into the grid. Components are often housed underground.

There are 4 operational PSH plants in the UK with a combined generation capacity of 2.8GW. We are proposing 3 new projects in Scotland the most advanced being a 450MW scheme Red John in Inverness currently in planning. The capacity of these projects would be over 2GW, this would almost double the current PSH generation capacity in the UK.

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