Old Iron Mine Repurposed For New Pumped Storage Hydroelectricity

by Tina Casey


Bell Island Iron Mine by The Tedster

A company called Moriah Hydro Corp. hopes to build a gigantic, 260 megawatt pumped storage hydroelectric facility in upstate New York, and it will use a series of abandoned, interconnected iron mines to do the job. That’s a nifty approach that gets around one of the sticky issues involved in pumped storage, which is where to find sites for massive new reservoirs. That still leaves the question of what kind of energy will be stored, but let’s take a closer look at the project and see what’s what.

The Mineville Pumped Hydro Project

For those of you new to the topic, a pumped storage facility simply recycles the same water between an upper reservoir and a lower reservoir, rather than letting it run down a river as in a conventional hydroelectric facility.

The new facility, called the Mineville Pumped Storage Project, gets a good rundown from writer Barry Cassell at generationhub.com. You can also get more details from the project’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission filing in the Federal Register.

According to Cassell, the new reservoirs would be contained completely within the existing mines and existing tunnels will be used to channel the flow. The powerhouse will also be constructed underground.

In other words, there will be minimal disruption to the existing landscape. That’s accord with another pumped storage project that recently caught our attention, at Glyn Rhonwy in Wales.

The powerhouse for the Welsh project will be located in an existing brownfield site, and it will use existing abandoned quarries for storage. However, the quarries have already been repurposed for recreational climbing and hiking, and some (but not all) of the trails will be lost when the new facility is built.

Clean Energy For Pumped Hydro

The Mineville project is off to a good start in terms of land use. As for the energy needed to do the pumping, pumped storage is notable because it is the only utility-scale energy storage technology in common use today, with hundreds of facilities around the world, and because it is ideal for storing intermittent energy sources, particularly wind (the Glyn Rhonwy project, for example, is specifically designed to store energy from a nearby wind farm).

Another notable aspect of pumped hydro is its use of existing, proven technology; namely, pumps and turbines, which means that the main obstacle is finding suitable sites for new facilities rather than the development of transformational technology.

One approach would be to use existing dams for new pumped storage facilities, which in the US would mean hundreds of potential sites.

On the other hand, at least one novel approach to pumped hydro overcomes the land use obstacle, by employing a pair of parallel, vertical shafts rather than using open surface reservoirs.

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This article, Old Iron Mine Repurposed For New Pumped Storage Hydroelectricity, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Tina Casey Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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Wales Gets Huge New Water Battery But Loses ‘Good Crack’

by Tina Casey — Special to JBS News

Wales has moved another step forward with the long-planned construction of a pumped hydro energy storage facility, which will reclaim two derelict rock quarries to store energy from local wind farms. It all sounds very sustainable and it is, partly because the sprawling new facility will re-use existing brownfields and industrial sites.

However, the new project comes at a cost. Over the years, the quarries have already been reclaimed as recreational climbing sites, and the new facility will cut off access to hiking routes and crack lines including The Good Crack, Clipopotamus, and The New Salesman among others.

Pumped Hydro in Brief

We’re fans of pumped hydro because it enables energy storage at an enormous scale for relatively low cost, based on a simple, technologically available concept: gravity. There are already hundreds of pumped hydro facilities worldwide, making it the only utility-scale energy storage system currently in common use.

The general idea is to pump vast quantities of water uphill into a reservoir when energy demand is low, then let it run downhill through turbines to provide for periods of increased demand.

The system is symbiotic with intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar power, since it evens out generating spikes while using clean, renewable energy to run the pumps.

Proposed pumped hydro system in Wales.
Quarry for pumped hydro system courtesy of Quarry Battery Company.

Pumped hydro is also an energy storage solution for nuclear power, since nuclear power stations can’t be ramped up or down to accommodate peak and off-peak use.

The Glyn Rhonwy Pumped Storage Facility

The new pumped hydro facility is a project of The Quarry Battery Company. It will be built at two Glyn Rhonwy quarries above Llanberis, linked by a subsurface pipeline. The pumping station will also make use of brownfields, as it will be constructed in an existing industrial area.

The new facility will specifically make use of local wind farms. Adding to the sustainability fest, it will include a dam to be constructed from local slate.

The system was first proposed in 2006, beating out proposals to build an indoor ski center and a mountain biking center. The go-ahead for construction was granted just yesterday, on September 2, with completion anticipated in 2017.

The system can store about 1.1 billion liters of water, or the equivalent of about 500 megawatt-hours. Though relatively small for a pumped hydro facility, it fits into the U.K.’s big energy picture of maximizing local renewable energy resources.

New Uses for Old Brownfields

Here in the US, the Obama Administration has similarly made brownfields exploitation a key part of the “all of the above” energy policy under the Re-Powering America’s Lands initiative. The focus here is to re-use Superfund sites and other classified industrial sites for wind and solar power.

However, as the Glyn Rhonwy project demonstrates, reclaiming brownfields for renewable energy projects is not necessarily impact-free. Local groups are concerned about encroachment into common lands and the potential visual impact on an important recreation site, while The British Mountaineering Council points out that use of the Cefn Du and Mancer quarries would cut off access to climbers. Among the losses listed by BMC are “crack lines” including Liquid Armbar E4 6a, The Mancer Direct E3 5b, The Good Crack E3 6a, Clipopotamus F6b, and The New Salesman E4 6b.

About the Author

Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

This article, Wales Gets Huge New Water Battery But Loses Good Crack, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.


A time to catch the Sun

by John Brian Shannon

“To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven”

The Byrds

And so it is time — as a number of energy variables have changed.
Only 3% of America’s existing 80,000 dams, presently have electrical generators attached to them. Yes, you read right!
What could be better than 100% of America’s dams producing clean electricity — instead of only 3% — thereby adding 77,600 more dams to the U.S. hydroelectric power grid?
Run of river dam
Bonneville Dam, Oregon, Washington, Columbia River (Photo credit: photolibrarian)

Here are some other factors that you may want to consider.

  1. The 80% price drop for solar panels over the past 30 months. (Solar power is now priced comparably to other electricity)
  2. The dramatic fall of wind turbine prices.
  3. Two new laws signed by U.S. President Obama which will allow most of America’s hydro-electric dam operators to add electrical power generation equipment to existing dams.
  4. Run-of-River(small-scale) dams to be built, to produce electrical power in rivers which have yet to be tapped for power. These dams essentially section off some of the water running down the river, using a berm to sequester some of the flow, to direct it to turbines and electrical generators. Meanwhile, the rest of the river continues flowing unaffected. Think of a berm which directs 1/3rd of the river water off to the side, which then runs down through pipes and turbines to produce electrical power.
  5. Pumped Storage simplified. Think of a regular hydroelectric dam — the water flows down through the dam, the generator in the dam produces electricity. Simple enough. But with pumped storage, a water collection system below the turbines pumps the water back uphill behind the dam for reuse at a later time. Up ’till now, it has been hideously expensive to do that, as the cost to pump a million gallons of water uphill each day, was more than the dollars generated by the water as it ran downhill through the turbines in the first place! But now that solar power and wind power have become so competitively-priced, it is natural that they should be installed beside hydro-electric dams to provide power for pumped storage. If much of the water that spills over the dam produces electrical power — then pumping it back up behind the dam cheaply, means it can be used again and again to produce power. Solar panels (during the daylight hours) and wind turbines (at night) can provide the low-cost electricity to send the water back uphill into the reservoir.

Ready for some GigaWatt math?
a) Add electrical power generation to the 77,600 American dams that presently do not produce any electrical energy.
b) Add Pumped Storage units to ALL 80,000 of America’s dams.
c) Add Run of River electrical power generation complete with Pumped Storage to the country’s rivers. The potential number of R-of-R electrical power generation sites could be as high as 50,000.
If you add up all the potential power generation capacity of a, b, and c, it becomes a very large calculation, and you might find it is your “Turn, Turn, Turn” to buy a larger calculator!
By taking this clear and logical path, the U.S.A. would take a huge forward leap in its clean energy production and thereby allow some deteriorating coal and nuclear power plants to be quietly retired.
If you are a clean energy advocate and want to write to your member of Congress, tell them you want;
  • Electrical power generators ADDED to all existing 80,000 U.S. dams — which is 77,600 more than today
  • Pumped Storage ADDED to all 80,000 American dam sites
  • RUN OF RIVER hydroelectric power plants with Pumped Storage built right into new R-of-R plants

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