How a pumping hydroelectric plant works, the best way we currently have to store energy in Spain

Hydraulic energy is one of the largest sources of renewable energy on the planet and, as such, it is inexhaustible, although the problem would be not having adequate places to build this type of power plant.

This energy is that which is obtained from the use of kinetic and potential energies of the current of the water, waterfalls or tides. It can be transformed at different scales.

Hydraulic energy can also be pumping, which has two reservoirs and allows to store energy to provide it when needed.

How a pumping hydroelectric plant works

Parts of a pumping hydroelectric plant
Source: Iberdrola.

The hydroelectric pumping station has two reservoirs at different heights, which makes it possible to store water for times when there is less demand and thus be able to take advantage of it to generate energy in the hours when consumption grows.

When that electricity demand is higher, the pumping hydroelectric plant follows the same operation as a conventional hydroelectric plant: The water that is previously accumulated in the upper reservoir closed by a dam, arrives through a conduction gallery to a penstock, which leads it to the engine room of the power plant.

During this process, the water passes through the penstock, in which acquires kinetic energy which is transformed into rotating mechanical energy in the hydraulic turbine.

Hydroelectric pumping station.
Source: Red Eléctrica de España.

This is then converted into medium-voltage, high-intensity electrical energy in the generator.

When this consumption is lower, is when the pumping mode is activated, in which a hydraulic pump is activated that raises the water from the lower reservoir to the upper reservoir, through the penstock and the conduit gallery.

In this pumping process, electrical energy is absorbed from the network and is stored as potential energy in the upper reservoir.

This process shows how pumped hydroelectric power plants are efficient in storing energy, and therefore, they represent a long-lasting solution.

Hydroelectric pumping stations in Spain

Hydroelectric power station

The largest pumped hydroelectric plant in Europe is located in Spain and is La Muela II, in the Cortes de Pallàs reservoir, on the right bank of the Júcar river.

It has a annual production is around 800 GWh, which feeds almost 200,000 homes, thus doubling the generation of the Cortes-La Muela complex to 1,625 GWh – the annual demand of almost 400,000 families.

What’s more, the Canary Islands Government has just given the green light to the construction of the Central Chira-Soria, which will mean an energy storage infrastructure that will help move towards a new energy model in the Canary Islands, safer, more efficient and respectful of the environment.

This proposal suggests the construction of a plant with a capacity of up to 200 MW, which would entail around 36% of energy demand of Gran Canaria. In addition, it will have the capacity to store 2.3 GWh of electricity.

Advantages and disadvantages of hydroelectric power

Hydroelectric power station

Hydroelectric energy has many advantages, among them and the most important, is that it is a clean energy, since in the process only water is used and, therefore, it does not produce gases or toxic emissions.

It is also a source safe and flexible, since electricity can be produced at the necessary moments only by regulating the water of the dams.

Although it also has drawbacks, such as el environmental impact of building the dam and, the seasons of drought They can be very hard to generate electricity, since if there is a shortage of water, there is a shortage of energy.

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Source: Motorpasión by

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