Reserve power. Once this valley in western Ireland (left) is dammed (artist’s rendition, right), stored seawater behind the dam will provide renewable power when it’s needed for the U.K. electrical grid.

For those of you who are wondering what is happening in the West of Ireland with those big saltwater hydro schemes; an update from Science Now Magazine.

Information about these projects is slow to be published and these two companies have been accused of negligence in their public information dissemination, something I had noticed myself.


VANCOUVER, CANADA—An Irish company has hatched an ambitious plan to dam five coastal valleys in the west of Ireland, use wind power to pump seawater behind the dams, and release it to create hydropower. The project, which could cost nearly $2 billion to construct, would create the largest water-powered energy-storage facility in the world, quadrupling Europe’s existing energy-storage capacity. It would generate three-quarters of the power of the Hoover Dam. That much power could help the United Kingdom slake its thirst for renewable energy while giving the west of Ireland a much-needed economic boost, the company’s founder announced here yesterday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes ScienceNOW).

Bigger and better forms of energy storage are needed if utility companies are to succeed in ramping up the portion of electricity produced from renewable sources such as wind and solar. That’s because the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow, so these companies need a way to store energy between when it’s produced and when it’s delivered as electricity. Such storage capacity is scarce on today’s power grid. Even Europe, with its push toward renewables, stores only 10% of the energy it produces, far too little to enable renewable energy sources such as wind and solar to smoothly replace fossil fuels.

The most common method of storing electricity, called water-powered energy storage, or simply pumped hydro, involves pumping water uphill from a lower lake to a lake about 100 meters uphill, storing it, and letting it run downhill to create power. But existing pumped hydro facilities are complex and expensive to build. They require constructing two reservoirs on impermeable ground in mountainous country that’s safe from large earthquakes. They also require pumps, tunnels, large-diameter pipes, high-voltage transmission lines, and more.

Around 2005, materials scientist Igor Shvets of Trinity College Dublin realized that nature had provided the coast of western Ireland with exactly the right conditions to combine large-scale wind energy and pumped hydro energy storage. Ireland’s wind is abundant and strong enough, particularly in the west, to supply as much energy as half of Iraq’s annual oil production. As for storing that energy, some 60 large, sparsely populated, glacial valleys lined with impermeable schist and basalt dotted 600 kilometers of the western Irish coast, and these valleys sit just above a steep drop-off to the ocean. All this means that on the coast of western Ireland, “90% of what you need for energy storage is already made for you by nature,” Shvets says.

Assuming they get the necessary permissions from Ireland’s government,, Shvets’s company, Natural Hydro Energy, plans within 5 years to dam five of those valleys, build large wind farms, and use wind energy to pump seawater from the ocean, creating lakes roughly 2 kilometers long and 2 kilometers across. And if they get the necessary permissions from the United Kingdom’s government, the company plans to lay high-voltage direct-current cable across Ireland and under the Irish Sea to supply power to the that country. Shvets and his colleagues have spent 3 years so far on detailed technical, economic, and environmental studies of potential valleys, and they’re in the process of raising €1.6 billion to finance the effort. And the facilities, and wind energy more generally, “could make a huge contribution to economic improvement in Ireland,” Shvets says.

Shvets’s proposal is technically feasible, says Robert Schainker, a senior technical executive at the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, California, but the prospects of the ambitious storage project, like those of other large energy installations, depend more on its economic viability. If the economics work, he concludes, “combining wind and large-scale pumped hydro is a very good idea.”


About kingstonrenewableenergy

Kingston Renewable Energy (KRE), Hydropower products, wind energy, renewable energy products, We manufacture, supply and install. Richard Kingston KRE is the home of Fluxy, a beautiful Irish made wind turbine designed to last several life-times, and a host of other Hydro products branded under KRE hydro. KRE HYDRO- KRE are currently installing a range of Hydro products including high head low flow systems and low head high flow. These are pelton and Turgo types for high head, crossflow Banki turbines for medium to low head and Powerpal for Ultra low head. We also plan to introduce a custom timber/steel/aluminium waterwheel service for those of you who are lucky enough to have disused mills on their land and who would like to restore them to their former glory (and make a healthy profit in the process). All hydro installations are custom designed. This is necessary because everybody's land and water resource is different and to benefit from the highest efficiency and lowest payback time the hydro system must be customized according to what flow, penstock length required, and what head is available. Hydropower is currently by far the most cost effective renewable resource in Ireland under the existing Feed in tariff structure and export rate of 9c per unit (wholesale rate for bigger systems is €0.087/kWh). It is surprising how much energy is to be harvested from even a small stream and we are offering 4 to 7 year payback times on average and high profits thereafter. KRE FLUXY- It has been a long journey from when I originally set out to buy a wind turbine to power my own house in 2007 and discovered that the existing machines on offer in the market failed to meet my desires as a customer; that is, to possess an aesthetically designed machine with a low embodied carbon footprint and a long design lifespan. This led to my resolve to make this a possibility as I knew there were other like minded folks out there who had the same needs when buying into renewable energy. I have always been a keen environmental activist and had a strong understanding of engineering and material sciences which enabled me to see failings in the high tech electronically controlled machines commonly available today. These weaknesses come from over complicating the wind system with servo motors, sensors, gear trains, relays and logic circuits; fine for large utility scale turbines which are constantly monitored and have continual maintenance on site but not for a small wind turbine in the back yard to run the house. I could see that wind turbines needed to be brought back to a less complicated yet modern design that would withstand time and the turbulent and violent winds we see in Ireland and fulfilling the old engineers adage of ‘KISS’ or ‘keep it simple stupid’. With less component parts, there are less things to go wrong. My vision was to create a machine that offered the benefits of being an economic investment, a positive for the environment and also to be a design piece that our customers are proud to have flying in their grounds. And so, I present you with the fully mechanical Kingston Renewable Energy Fluxy wind turbine. Please feel free to contact us at any time if you have any questions or think you may have a good wind site. We will happily do a site assessment come rain or shine. Stay posted for the monthly blogs from our inspirational team here at KRE. Check out our latest installments in our crusade to get higher feed-in tariffs in Ireland so that we can compete with the rest of Europe in the micro-generation stakes. The Hydro section of our website will be updated shortly to show our newest installations and showcase our products. Yours sincerely, Richard Kingston

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