Switzerland really seems to have its act together. The country has spent the last fourteen years constructing a power generation source that has to be seen to be believed. You can think of it as a ‘water battery’. That is, a battery that stores water for later use.
And it’s not small, either. It stores the equivalent of 20 million kWh, for use in case of emergencies, and it’s powered by those times when there’s too much power being generated. Can you imagine such a thing? Switzerland’s hydropower facility, run by a company called Nant de Drance, went into operation at the beginning of this month.
Let’s move to Switzerland
The concept behind the Nant de Drance facility is pretty simple. Water is stored in two reservoirs. When there’s a surplus(!) of power, it’s used to pump water to a raised reservoir. There it stays, an effective ‘battery’ for those times when power demand spikes.
When it does spike, and existing power generation battles to keep up, the battery jumps into action. That stored water runs through six turbines, which can generate 900MW at very short notice. That’s enough to keep the lights on at over 900,000 homes. Best of all, it can be topped up again just as soon as there’s surplus power generation. Which, obviously, means it won’t work here. South Africa doesn’t have surplus power. Or surplus water.
The idea of pumping water to elevated positions to use for power isn’t new. The concept has been around in Switzerland for quite a while. America also makes use of the concept, and China recently decided to create 270GW of green storage capacity. It’s something to consider, if South Africa ever gets its coal problems under control.