In the heart of the Alps a mega water battery that does not exploit rivers

For many, probably, the name Nant de Drance might mean nothing, but it is one of the most important hydroelectric power generation and storage sites in Europe. It took 14 years And approximately 2 billion Swiss francs to build this massive hydroelectric power plant located in the Swiss Alpsin the canton of Valais, at a depth of 600 meters in a cave between the basins of Emosson and Vieux Emosson, in the municipality of Finhaut.

The construction of the huge 194 meter long, 52 meter high and 32 meter wide tunnel required 650 workers to excavate 400,000 cubic meters of rock and drill 17 kilometers of tunnels. The plant, which went into operation at the beginning of July this year, is equipped with six pump turbines, with a capacity of 150 MegaWatts each and a storage power equal to 400,000 electric car batteries.

The highly flexible machines allow you to go from -900 MW to +900 MW, i.e. from full power pumping to full power turbine, in less than 5 minutes. Through the great turbines of Nant de Drance pass approx 360 cubic meters of water per secondpractically the reach of the Rhone River in Geneva, in the summer.

The plant used two existing basins, including the one generated by the Vieux Emosson dam, at 2,200 meters above sea level, further raised by 21.5 meters to double its capacity, up to 25 million cubic meters of water and allow central one electricity storage equal to 20 million kWh.

Nant de Drance will give considerable stability to the Swiss electricity grid and could help the entire electricity supply system in Europe. In fact, it will function like a huge battery, since it will be able to store excess energy and produce it when the grid requires it. With its high-efficiency turbines, the plant manages to give back up to 80% of the electricity taken to power the circuit and stores about 20 hours of reserve energyas he explains Robert Gleitzdelegate of the board of directors of Nant de Drance.

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The big advantage of the pumping-turbine power plantsin fact, it consists precisely in their flexibility, since they make it possible to compensate for the natural instability of the production of electricity deriving from wind and solar sources.

In Switzerland thehydroelectric energy it represents the main source of electricity supply, covering almost 60% of annual production. The first dam in the country was built in 1890 and, since then, almost all of Switzerland’s river systems have been modified to build power plants capable of covering national needs. This obviously had a major impact on the environment, representing the main problem of hydroelectric power plants a “open flow”that is, those that use the strength of the rivers to be fed.

Even in this, Nant de Drance represents a remarkable progress and a more eco-sustainable solutionas it is based on closed loop pumping systemsi.e. on artificially pumped water tanks, with no impact on rivers.

Andrew Blakersan engineering professor at Australian National University, identified Ben 600,000 potential sites for construction of closed-circuit hydroelectric power plants around the worldbut calculated that only 1% of these would be enough to cover the total need for energy storage and world level.

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The importance of Nant de Drance for the whole of Europe is therefore evident. As he states Rebecca Ellis, head of energy policies at the non-profit International Hydropower Association, the Swiss country could offer stability to the grid across the continent. Meanwhile, only in Switzerland, Nant de Drance has increased installed energy capacity by 33%making it the de facto leader in Europe in the transition to renewable energy.

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About Eric Wilson

The variety offered by video games never ceases to amaze him. He loves OutRun's drifting as well as the contemplative walks of Dear Esther. Immersing himself in other worlds is an incomparable feeling for him: he understood it by playing for the first time in Shenmue.

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