Pumped Storage Power Plants – Intelligent Electricity Storage Facilities
In but a few seconds, pumped storage power plants can alternately be switched to storage or generation mode, depending on whether there is a shortage or a surplus of electricity.
How does a pumped storage power plant work?
A pumped storage power plant utilises the difference in height between a reservoir and a power house with the turbines. In doing so, water is directed to a tunnel, where it "precipitates" into a depth of 500 metres. At the end of the tunnel, the water reaches turbines, which are subsequently set in motion. These turbines activate generators, which then generate electricity. The unique thing about pumped storage power plants is that the reverse process is also possible, i.e. water can be pumped into a higher altitude reservoir from a lower lying river or lake.
What advantages come with electricity generation in pumped storage power plants?
What works well in small rechargeable batteries or simple batteries is not possible on a large industrial scale and in large quantities: To this day, electricity cannot be stored efficiently. Therefore, at every time, only as much electricity as is needed at a certain point in time must be generated, and, in turn, only as much as is generated may be consumed. This applies not just to Austria but to entire Europe.
Nature has a different rhythm
The more alternative energy sources are utilised in Europe – e.g. solar plants in the sunny south, wind power plants in the stormy north –, the less predictable electricity generation becomes. Because the time at which the sun is shining or the wind is blowing does not always go hand in hand with human habits of electricity consumption.
Pumps run at night...
In the long term, pumped storage power plants are the only possibility of storing electricity efficiently. For instance, if a large amount of power from wind power plants is available at night, this power is used to pump water from a lower altitude reservoir to a higher lying one. The surplus energy from the wind is thus stored in form of work.
...and turbines during the day
If more electricity is generated during the day than is used at that particular time, water from the reservoir can be pumped into a lower lying power house within seconds, where the water pressure activates a turbine. Hence, if necessary, electricity can be fed into the grid within a few minutes.
With pumped storage, the same water can be used and reused several times in order to store electricity in an economically and ecologically sound manner.
The safety of dams is an important issue. VERBUND dams are among the best monitored constructions in Austria. The key to safety lies in a robust construction method, as well as the extensive observation of each plant via automatic sensors and our own employees on site.