My headline is a shameless rewording of the title of a US piece in CleanTechnica on March 4th, which naturally made me think of Scotland. Much has been said and written about the weakness in our massive growth in renewables, storage. I’ve already written about solutions already being developed in Scotland, such as batteries, conversion to hydrogen and the exploitation of more reliable offshore wind and tidal forces. For more on these see:
Always at the back of my mind, though, has been another technology, well-established here, which I’ve read little of in a Scottish context. You may have thought of it yourself (before seeing the photograph above) but before I get to it, see this from the CleanTechnica report based on the USA:
‘In the last couple of years, there has been a growing a number of news articles and blog posts published about energy storage, particularly in the form of battery systems. This interest is very reasonable, and the news is exciting because these systems can fill in wind power and solar power electricity production gaps. However, it appears as though pumped hydro storage is being overlooked, with all the hype about batteries. It still has huge potential to help balance clean, renewable energy. In fact, all the discourse about battery storage seems to be supporting the idea that this form of storage is going to solve clean energy intermittency issues, but there are gaps in what batteries can provide, so let’s take a look at pumped hydro so we can see just how large a factor it could become.’
‘Pumped hydro storage’ is, as far as I can see, the same thing as out long-established hydroelectric power stations, such as the one at Cruachan. Here’s how the US system is illustrated:
I’m no technologist so is it just a hydroelectric power plant of the kind we have decades of working with? If so, why is this technology not being talked about for storage? My first reaction is that perhaps our hydroelectric power stations generate all the power they need by themselves to pump water back up for storage. There may however be other sites which would need the electricity from renewables to achieve their full storage potential. I don’t know. The US report suggests that there are potentially around 22 000 pumped hydro energy sites in Australia and that Germany already has plans to use the technology to store around 23Gw by 2050 so there must be something in this.
Finally, of course, there are environmental and safety concerns with battery storage while hydro is, to my knowledge, safer and more ecologically sound.
As in some earlier pieces, this is a social scientist dabbling in the physical sciences and technology but I know some readers are equipped to clarify or correct.