Hydropower: Switzerland's massive source of renewable energy

Posted on March 10th, 2017 in hydro by Spencer R.



With its snow kissed peaks and fresh alpine air, Switzerland is one of Europe's most scenic countries. It is also home to a lot of hydropower.

According to the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE), hydropower accounts for roughly 56 percent of its domestic electricity production.

As such, the SFOE describes hydropower as being "Switzerland's most important domestic source of renewable energy."

At the Hydraulic Constructions Laboratory (LCH) in Lausanne, researchers are looking to hone and optimize hydropower facilities.

"This Laboratory was created in parallel with the development of water infrastructure in Switzerland – mainly (the) construction of dams, but also of course hydropower," Anton Schleiss, head of the LCH and president of the International Commission on Large Dams, told CNBC's Sustainable Energy.

A great deal of emphasis is placed on the maintenance of hydropower facilities.

"Rehabilitation is very important for our structures related to hydropower and flood protection," the LCH's Giovanni de Cesare, said.

"These infrastructures are ageing and we have to rehabilitate regarding security, energy production, and also ecological rehabilitation," he added.

Given the scale of many hydropower facilities, their impact can be considerable, whether it be the displacement of local people or damage to wildlife.

As such, sympathetic design needs to be considered.

"When we build a dam, this becomes an obstacle for fish migration, therefore we have to install a fish pass which allows the fish to migrate freely and reproduce in the upstream rivers," de Cesare said.


Hydro storage can secure 100 percent renewable electricity

Posted on February 28th, 2017 in hydro by Spencer R.



Pumped hydro storage can be used to help build a secure and cheap Australian electricity grid with 100 per cent renewable energy, a new study from The Australian National University (ANU) has found.

Lead researcher Professor Andrew Blakers from ANU said the zero-emissions grid would mainly rely on wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, with support from pumped hydro storage, and would eliminate Australia's need for coal and gas-fired power.

"With Australia wrestling with how to secure its energy supply, we've found we can make the switch to affordable and reliable clean power," said Professor Blakers from the ANU Research School of Engineering.

Professor Blakers said wind and solar PV  provided nearly all new generation capacity in Australia and half the world's new generation capacity each year. At present, renewable energy accounts for around 15 per cent of Australia's electricity generation while two thirds comes from coal-fired power stations.

"However, most existing coal and gas stations will retire over the next 15 years, and it will be cheaper to replace them with wind and solar PV," he said.

The ANU research considers the potential benefits of using hydro power , where water is pumped uphill and stored to generate electricity on demand.

"Pumped hydro energy storage is 97 per cent of all storage worldwide, and can be used to support high levels of solar PV and wind," Professor Blakers said.

Professor Blakers said the cost of a 100 per cent stabilised renewable electricity system would be around AU$75/MWh, which is cheaper than coal and gas-fuelled power.

ANU is leading a study to map potential short-term off-river pumped hydro energy storage (STORES) sites that could support a much greater share of  in the grid.

STORES sites are pairs of reservoirs, typically 10 hectares each, which are separated by an altitude difference of between 300 and 900 metres, in hilly terrain, and joined by a pipe with a pump and turbine. Water is circulated between the upper and lower reservoirs in a closed loop to store and generate power.

Dr Matthew Stocks from the ANU Research School of Engineering said STORES needed much less water than power generated by fossil fuels and had minimal impact on the environment because water was recycled between the small reservoirs.

"This hydro power doesn't need a river and can go from zero to full  in minutes, providing an effective method to stabilise the grid," he said.

"The water is pumped up from the low reservoir to the high reservoir when the sun shines and wind blows and electricity is abundant, and then the  can run down through the turbine at night and when electricity is expensive."

Co-researcher Mr Bin Lu said Australia had hundreds of potential sites for STORES in the extensive hills and mountains close to population centres from North Queensland down the east coast to South Australia and Tasmania.


EnergyAustralia ponders world’s largest seawater pumped hydro energy storage plant

Posted on February 24th, 2017 in hydro by Spencer R.



 The proposed project would be situated at the northern end of the Spencer Gulf with 300 metres elevation. Credit: EnergyAustralia

Major power firm EnergyAustralia is studying the feasibility of building a huge pumped hydroelectric energy storage project in the Spencer Gulf of South Australia.

Standing at 100MW with six-to-eight hours of storage, this would not only be the second ever seawater-based pumped hydro storage project in the world, it would also be the largest.

EnergyAustralia claimed that the project would account for the equivalent of 60,000 home battery storage systems, but at a third of the price, while helping to stabilise and integrate clean energy to the grid.

Air-conditioning is clearly a major challenge for the country’s grid operators and the project could offer some respite.

“On hot days, when demand spikes, a pumped hydro plant can be brought into action in minutes, keeping the lights on and costs down,” said EnergyAustralia managing director Catherine Tanna. “We're really excited by its potential.”

The proposed project would be situated at the northern end of the Spencer Gulf with 300 metres elevation, two kilometres from the coastline and in close proximity to high voltage transmission lines.

Pumped hydro storage involves pumping water from a lower reservoir to a higher reservoir, when energy produced is cheaper or in excess. In peak periods, the water can be released downwards to run a turbine, which then generates electricity.

Since 2013, EnergyAustralia’s project partners, Melbourne Energy Institute and engineering consultancy Arup Group, have been investigating how to adapt traditional fresh water pumped hydro for use with seawater instead – a need for innovation driven by Australia’s dry conditions.

The feasibility study for the new project is touted for completion by mid-2017 and if then approved via consultation with stakeholders and government, it will require a two-year construction period.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has also written to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) asking them to prioritise pumped hydro and storage. Grid stabilising has become a major poltical issue in Australia over the last few months after several disruptive blackouts in South Australia and other states. This led to a furore surrounding integration of renewables into the grid with various energy bodies and environmentalists arguing over whether renewbales had any role in the power cuts.

Tellingly, even Turnbull noted that a storm had caused the South Australia power issues.

Construction starts on solar-plus-hydro storage project

In related news, construction has started on the first phase of what will be Australia’s largest solar plant, just off the back of reaching financial closure.

While a second phase of 270MW of solar is planned at the 50MW Kidston solar farm at a gold mine in Queensland, energy firm Genex Power is also considering developing an accompanying 250MW Kidston pumped storage hydro project, which it found could be connected to the solar plant in a recent study.

This would be the first Australian example of co-locating a large-scale solar farm with a large-scale pumped hydro storage project.

Genex forecasts that the pumped hydro storage project will support 1,500MWh of continuous power in a single 6-hour generation cycle. Despite many instances of pumped storage deployment worldwide, there are only three pumped hydro storage projects operating in Australia at Tumut and the Shoalhaven in New South Wales and at Wivenhoe in Queensland.

The Kidston solar project received a debt funding arrangement of approximately AU$100 million (US$76.9 million) from Société Générale, with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) taking care of the EPC requirements and O&M costs.


Pertamina exploring development of tourism at geothermal sites

Posted on December 7th, 2016 in hydro by Spencer R.



A lot of most geothermal spots in the world are taboo for development of power project, while in many spots of the world geothermal development actually can create opportunities to develop tourism.

In Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is a good example … while nobody knows that it was created by an accident at the nearby geothermal power plant. But an actual geothermal power plant in the country has also become a tourist destination in itself.

So it is not surprising that Pertamina Geothermal Energy (PGE) in Indonesia is looking into utilising its geothermal activities beyond steam and power generation.

Local news now report, that Indonesia’s Tourism Ministry is coordinating with Pertamina to support the development of geothermal tourism in the operational areas of geothermal energy production.

An MoU was signed between the Ministry and PGE at a recent national tourism coordination meeting in Jakarta and there are big hopes that geothermal sites in the county could not only generate electricity but also become tourist destinations.

“Indonesia, with its volcanoes and the geothermal areas, can potentially be a tourist attraction. However, the geothermal resources are only known as a source of green energy here, where it actually has a direct use in the tourism sector,” President Director of PT Pertamina Geothermal Energy Irfan Zainuddin said.

Irfan said several countries have adopted the utilization of geothermal operation area into tourist attractions, namely Iceland, New Zealand, Japan, and a number of European countries.

The PGE has started a geothermal tourism trial project in a village in Kamojang, West Java. Similar program will also be applied to other PGE operational areas, such as in Lahendong, North Sulawesi; and in Ulubelu, Lampung.

He surely hopes the MoU would support the development of geothermal tourism in various regions in Indonesia.

PGE has 12 geothermal operational areas with a total capacity of 532 MW which is produced from four areas in Kamojang (West Java), Ulubelu (Lampung), Lahendong (North Sulawesi), and Sibayak (North Sumatera).


Warm, wet weather leads to excess hydropower

Posted on June 15th, 2016 in hydro by Spencer R.

The organization that sells hydro-electric power to Ketchikan, Wrangell and Petersburg finds itself in an unusual situation this year – plenty of electricity to sell and a decreasing demand from customers in the three Southeast communities. A warm, wet winter and lower oil prices are factors.


Easing Drought Boosts California Hydropower, For Now

Posted on June 2nd, 2016 in hydro by Spencer R.

The easing of California’s drought has boosted the state’s early spring hydropower generation to its highest level since 2011, helping it to recover from a 15-year low reached last year. But hydroelectricity production is not expected to improve much overall this year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.


Variable speed Pumped Storage Hydro Plants offer a new era of smarter energy management

Posted on May 19th, 2016 in hydro by Spencer R.

The EU-funded ESTORAGE project has presented a range of options for increasing energy storage capacity across Europe, whilst also building flexibility into grids to better integrate renewables.


Alaska has incredible potential for hydropower, when it's done right

Posted on May 5th, 2016 in hydro by Spencer R.

When you flip a light switch in Alaska, do you know where the electricity comes from? It doesn’t all come from the same place.


Micro-hydropower: Going with the flow

Posted on April 5th, 2016 in hydro by Spencer R.

Increasing numbers of Wallowa County landowners are looking in to the potential of micro-hydropower.


Hydropower is good for ecology and economy

Posted on March 28th, 2016 in hydro by Spencer R.

Sitting on a tributary of China’s Yangtze River, Gangkouwan hydropower station does more than generate electricity.