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Hydro Storage Cheapest

David Cooke

David Cooke

By discontinuing the use of fossil fuels in Jamaica we unfortunately lose their inherent energy storage. But we can replace it.

Batteries are usually our first thought. We can store it as heat that can then be used for steam-driven turbines (like in Chile) which the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) already uses in quantities, or myriad other ways, including flywheels, and compressed air to drive pistons and airline-style turbines and the like.

In last week’s piece, we saw that the reduced cost of thermal storage via molten salts in Chile was US$0.03 cents per kWh. Similarly, the newest solar thermal plant in California reports a 1,100 MWh vat at US$30 per MWh, or US$0.03 cents per kWh. This vat size represents some three to five hours of Jamaica’s night-time use.

The cheapest large-scale energy storage is unsurprisingly, water storage; up to 100 times cheaper than large batteries. Hydro storage also has no imported fuel costs, so it doesn’t drain our lifeblood — foreign exchange. The fuel is stored water. And these facilities also have very long useful lives, as much as a century of usage, unlike molten salt’s 30 years.

 So how can we create our own abundant hydropower? You probably guessed the answer: “pumped hydro” storage, as I explained in my year-ago article in the Jamaica Observer, at:–again_18720900.

After that publication, a leading American pumped-storage specialist wrote me. At my behest his company did a white paper on Jamaica’s pumped storage potential, and in it he inadvertently supplied the answer. (He also identified many naturally occurring sites that could be used for large-scale pumped-hydro in Jamaica). If my Jamaican planners have an interest in this document, I’m more than willing to help.

Would you believe this type of storage adds less than US$0.02 cents per KWh to our generation bill? Yes, we could store our entire night-time needs from cheap daytime solar generation for under US$0.10 cents per night per average household, by my calculation. That is all it would cost. This pricing has since been confirmed by two other notable expert sources; one from Australia, one from California. We could use 100 per cent solar and wind for all our needs given this water storage. Together, domestic solar, wind and water (SWW) would provide all our 450 MW of regular daily any time use, and cause the complete replacement of JPS’s 850 MW or so of useful fossil-fired generators. There would therefore be no need to import “natural resources”.

Recognise it, and glorify it — Our under-used natural resources of SWW! And remember we only need storage because we are too brain-dead to figure out how to adopt sophisticated switching technology.

Unlike fossil-fuelled generation, where fuel storage and shipping (wharfage and ports) dictate the points of generation, renewable fuel sources — SWW — are all around us. There really is no need for inherently costly centralised generation with long and expensive transmission lines and towers. Place new-age generation closer to where electricity is needed in large quantities and eliminate this ever-larger transmission cost-escalator of our electricity.

And storage eliminates wasteful one-way flow from generator to customer only, now supplying storage reservoirs by reverse-flow of electrons, resulting in more efficient use of our power grid.

So why settle for around 30 per cent replacements of JPS’s old-world equipment by renewables being just some 150 MW? Reach for the skies: 1,000 MW or more of these hurricane-resistant facilities, factory rated to 120 mph or better for solar panels. Even if you lose a few panels to strong wind, the rest of the power plant would continue to produce, so there would be no massive outages.

David Cooke is a UWI- trained electrical engineer. He’s now a budding independent clean energy developer. Contact him at: deeco3@earthlink.n



Category/ies:Hydropower Tech, Jamaica Articles, Jamaica News, News, Renewable Energy.
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