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Pumped Storage Hydro Plant nearby....

Post in 'The Green Room' started by webbie, Jul 26, 2006.

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  1. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Our local papers today has a story about some of our local power plants being sold.

    One of them is Northfield Mountain, which at first glance looks like a very green power source. It is a hydro generator that is actually built INSIDE a mountain. The area around it is run by the utility as a large park, with everything from boat tours on the river, to cross country skiing. Bald eagles as well as other rare species live there.

    But get this - this plant generates 1,080 MEGAWATTS of electricity - and it is only one of many hydro plants in the Ct. and Deerfield rivers....that is some serious juice!

    Reading up a bit, this is what is called a pump storage hydro plant. At night, when energy use is low, the utility pumps water UP into a holding pond on top of the mountain. Then, when the juice is needed during the day, it ia allowed to flow down and turn the turbines.

    I know this is nothing compared to the big dams out west, but I thought it was interesting and shows how water, combined with wind, biofuel conservation and solar, could supply a BIG part of this regions needs.

    As a comparison, the giant Mt. Tom coal plant, also part of this sale, is listed as 146 Megawatt.

    Info source
    http://www.nu.com/northfield/
    info source on Park

    About Northfield
    Northfield Mountain is a pumped storage hydroelectric facility owned and operated by Northeast Utilities. In accordance with our federal license, we offer the public an extensive array of recreation programs, environmental programs, and facilities, and provide school environmental and recreation programs to surrounding communities.

    We are a four-season recreation facility situated along a beautiful sweep of mountainside--with satellite facilities strung along a 7-mile stretch of the Connecticut River. Northfield Mountain offers cross country skiing, hiking, and mountain biking on 26 miles of trails; camping, canoeing, kayaking and upriver canoe shuttles at our Barton Cove recreation area; interpretive riverboat cruises and charters on the 60-seat Quinnetukut II; public environmental and recreation programs at our Visitor Center; and school environmental and recreational programs on-site. Other offerings include a public picnic area and a 70-seat, rentable pavilion area at Riverview, camping for boaters at Munn�s Ferry, and fishways (PDF: 1063KB) (see bookmark titled Pavilion Rental, Picnicking and Fishways) for free spring viewing of thousands of migrating fish.

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  2. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

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    It's great that they're good corporate citizens and all, but 'pumped storage' is just that - storage. Like a big physical battery. The gravity potential of the water drives the turbines during the day, and there's some 'loss' from running the equipment. So then they turn around and pump the water back up, with more loss (pumps, friction, etc?) There would have to be enough water coming to the system 'naturally' (that is, by gravity drainage from upstream) to compensate the losses just to break even.

    Not that it's not good, but not as good as it seems.

    Steve
  3. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    I understand the concept...it's like when I laughed at my dad who said I should invent a tiny generator to go on a faucet - it takes as much or more energy to pump water than you would get back....

    BUT,

    we have to keep a few things in mind. There are a lot of losses in transmission long distance, so if Northfield sold the power to NYC, etc. for night time use, a lot would be lost on the way there. It must be more economical to pump it up.

    Also, I doubt they use them, but have you ever heard of Hydraulic Ram Pumps?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydraulic_ram

    They use the power of water hammer to lift water. We have to keep in mind that the river is always flowing and only X amount of that can be converted into electricity.....

    I heard it might be possible to get a plant tour up there. I'll give it a shot and take pics if they let me.
  4. hilly

    hilly Feeling the Heat

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    The other thing to remember is that any excess electricity is wasted. If a power company produces double the demand, there is no way to save it for later. At least this saves some of the otherwise wasted energy.
  5. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    As I understand it, these schemes work to even out the power production cycle, which is important since power plants are more efficient when they run at a constant rate of output. So, you use electricity generated by a conventional power plant to pump the water up the mountain at night when demand on the grid is down, allowing the plant to run more efficiently, then recover most of the energy during the day when it flows back down through the turbines. Steve is right--it's a gigawatt of storage, not a gig of generated power.

    The main beneficiary of this system would seem to be the utility, but if the net effect is more efficiency and fewer power plants, then I'd say we all benefit.

    Sounds like a neat tour, Craig. Be sure to fill us in on what you see.
  6. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    There was an amazing facility just like this next to Chattanooga (sp?) that we toured years ago. The philosophy is simple - the river always flows and makes power. When there's nobody to buy it, you pump up to fill the lake - when demand spikes, usually late in day, within minutes, extra turbines inside the mountain are brought online and the lake is emptied generating a burst of high-value power. It was particularly impressive how fast these could be started up and brought online - an valuable method to balance demand quickly.

    The facility deep inside the mountain was amazing to see - one of the coolest engineering marvels I have ever seen.

    I had a lot of problems with this tour until I understood that the power being generated on the river in the middle of the night was essentially worthless and the power coming during that peak production has very very high market value. Otherwise you violate some fundamental thermodynamic prinicples trying to make money at this :)

    -Colin
  7. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    These would seem to help solve the problems associated with wind and PV electric generation. Bad night time performance. Or additionally with wind, poor consistant output.

    Seems to me we should be following the model of the chinese here. Dam the Hudson....Just above Poughkeepsie of course! ;-)
  8. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    The Chinese? We've already done it. The Columbia River Basin is the most hydroelectrically developed river system in the world. More than 400 dams -- 11 run-of-the-river dams on the mainstem. Basically they've turned it into a big lake. Lots of hydropower, but lousy for salmon.
  9. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

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    Life's full of trade offs.
  10. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    How many people did they displace, business ruined, lives distroyed in doing the Columbia River vs how many for the Three Gorges Dam project ?
  11. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    From what I understand, most of the Hydro in this country has already been tapped.....there is some small scale, but the big juice is already flowing. As far as China goes, we should be really happy about their dam - it means that much less coal pollution. Yes, life is full of trade-offs!
  12. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

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    There's more hydro out there, and there's hydro being removed all the time. Our local utility operates a couple nukes, but apparently they require a significant shot of juice to get going. So they maintained abunch of low hydros that were only used occasionally. cost of maintenance, liability, and the persistent harrassment from environmentalists has resulting in their dismantling/removal, and massive environmental cleanup/damage as a result of the PCB and metal-laden sediments the dams had been trapping for decades. Easier to buy the juice from the coal plant.

    Steve
  13. restorer

    restorer New Member

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    [quote author="Webmaster" date="1153926403"]Our local papers today has a story about some of our local power plants being sold.

    One of them is Northfield Mountain, which at first glance looks like a very green power source. It is a hydro generator that is actually built INSIDE a mountain. The area around it is run by the utility as a large park, with everything from boat tours on the river, to cross country skiing. Bald eagles as well as other rare species live there.

    But get this - this plant generates 1,080 MEGAWATTS of electricity - and it is only one of many hydro plants in the Ct. and Deerfield rivers....that is some serious juice!

    The problem I have is who bought it? If it is a supplier, will it be efficeinly operated? We seem to sell green good business with no concern for the buyer. What are they goig to do with the plant? Are they going to improve eiffiency or degrade to close. Is this a PR move?
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