Need Peak Power? Go to Gwynedd

When people talk about "green" power - they often talk about baseline vs. peak capacity. But here's the rub: green "peak" capacity does not usually come at the peak consumption times. Generally, wind and solar align alright with peak times, but by no means perfectly.

If you want perfect alignment, you need instant, on-demand power. A pipe dream you say? Nope.

Meet the electric mountain.

Dinorwig Power Station (aka Electric Mountain) Gwynedd, Wales

Dinorwig Power Station (aka Electric Mountain) Gwynedd, Wales

The Dinorwig Power Station is a 1,800 MW pumped-storage hydroelectric scheme, near Dinorwig, Llanberis in Snowdonia national park in Gwynedd, north Wales. It comprises 16 km of tunnels, 1 million tons of concrete, 200,000 tons of cement and 4,500 tons of steel.

It does not actually "produce electricity" in the sense that it is about 75% efficient. Water is pumped up to the reservoir at low-demand times (middle of the night), and then is released when there is a sudden surge in demand.

And why does the UK especially need this? Tea and Soccer.

Back in the day, my Mom worked on the national natural-gas grid in the UK. She learned about the greatest spike, to this day, on the UK electrical grid: half-time at the finals of the 1966 World Cup (the UK vs. Germany). What happened? As soon as half-time came around, half of England walked over to their kitchen to make some tea, plugging in their 220v electric kettles. The grid almost failed under the massive surge in demand. Enter the electric mountain.

from wired:
"When millions of British football fans flip on their electric kettles at halftime, Dinorwig’s hydropower operation kicks into action to handle the spike in demand: 10 million cubic meters of water in a reservoir on the surface rush down a network of pipes to drive six turbines located 300 feet below the surface. The hall that holds the turbines—a former slate mine and Europe’s largest man-made cavern—lies deep below Elidir Mountain. Dinorwig can generate 1,320 megawatts in just 10 seconds, making it the zippiest power generator in the world."

Pretty damn amazing. This is 70% of the power of the Hoover Dam delivered on demand. Incredible.

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