We live in a time when we must do everything possible to protect the environment. The United Nations (UN) issued a warning about a year ago, predicting that the Earth will warm by 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2040. However, such warming could occur even sooner if humanity does not act quickly.
Many efforts have recently been made to reduce the burden we place on the shoulders of our earth, not only by households and businesses, but also by entire countries. Switzerland is one of them, having recently presented its own latest innovation in the field of renewable energy sources.
Energy For Hundreds of Thousands
We’re talking about the Nant de Drance water battery, which has been in operation since last month. It is distinguished above all by its environmental friendliness and massive capacity, which is estimated to be equivalent to 400,000 electric car batteries, he writes for the BBC. In another comparison, it can power approximately 900,000 households.
The battery grew high in the Swiss Alps, specifically in the canton of Valais, and is outfitted with highly flexible reversible turbines. It can easily switch from energy storage to delivery mode, allowing it to serve as a power plant at the same time. “We can withdraw energy when it is too much and produce it again when it is needed,” says Robert Gleitz, a board of directors delegate for Nant de Drance.
Unlike many other hydroelectric plants, Nant de Drance utilises variable speed pump turbines, which help in grid stabilization.
“With fixed-speed turbines, you have to wait until the plant is running at exactly the right speed to synchronize with the grid,” Pascal Radue, CEO of GE Renewable Energy Hydro, explains. Variable speed turbines, on the other hand, can deliver electricity immediately, posing a lower risk of blackout.
Two existing water reservoirs were used and modified during the construction of Nant de Drance. To double its capacity to nearly 2.5 million liters, the upper one had to be raised by 21.5 meters. That much water, by comparison, would fill approximately 6,500 Olympic swimming pools. The entire project was expected to cost around $2 billion.
No more dams
Nant de Drance is another modern hydroelectric plant that uses closed systems to avoid harming river systems. In the past, power plants relied on “open flow” operations and needed to be built with dams, which had a significant impact on the nearby flora and fauna.
According to Australian National University professor Andrew Blakers, “the era of building dams is almost over.” He continues by saying that closed-system power plants need only a small amount of space. Approximately two square kilometres of flooded land would require them to power a city with a million residents for a full day.
According to Blakers, these hydroelectric plants present one of the most effective energy storage options currently on the market. In particular, Nant de Drance feeds back up to 80% of the energy it consumes to the grid. He only keeps a tiny portion for backup.
The Swiss water battery will be essential to achieving Europe’s goal of becoming “the first climate-neutral continent.” Despite the fact that in 2020 “only” a little over a fifth of the total energy in Europe came from renewable sources, the European Commission wants to increase the share of renewable energy sources to 45 percent by 2030.