New Battery Facility Does Not Represent the Storage Breakthrough We Need

Davis Swan | Mar 01, 2013

On January 23, 2013 Duke Energy announced that it had completed the Notrees Battery Storage project in Texas which now represents the largest capacity battery facility in North America. Providing backup power for the Notrees Windpower project, this facility is able to produce 36 MW of power on demand whether or not the wind is blowing.

This announcement generated literally hundreds of articles and blogs claiming in essence that battery backup for wind generation facilities is now a reality. A particularly extreme example was a post by Tina Casey on site which stated that:

'the new storage facility blows a Texas-sized raspberry in the direction of renewable energy nay-sayers, whose complaints about the "unreliable" nature of wind power are now, well, blowing in the wind'

What this post and every other news article and blog about this facility fail to mention is just how long the 36 MW of power can be generated.

The answer is ... wait for it ... 15 minutes. After that the lights go out. All for the low low price of $44 million.

If you don't believe me then check out the government site that provided half the funding (

This kind of facility is useful (as are the ones in Hawaii and Alaska) only as a bridge power source that can keep putting power into the grid for a few minutes until a truly reliable coal or natural gas-fired plant can ramp up when wind farm production drops to zero which happens on a regular basis.

What about the other storage technologies mentioned in Ms. Casey's blog? Flywheel technology is in its infancy and again has no ability to scale up to the kind of storage requirements needed to replace wind.

Pumped storage? Seriously? There are very few spots on earth where pumped storage can work (you need a large reservoir above the dam which is easy and a large reservoir below the dam which is almost impossible because hydro dams are typically constructed in very narrow river valleys).

I'll admit that if you throw enough money at battery technology it can provide a few minutes of storage which is useful as a bridge or to filter out some of the very extreme variability of renewable sources. For example, a single cloud passing over a large PV installation can drop its power out by 60% in 2 minutes. That kind of variability will cause chaos in any transmission system (and is starting to do so in places like Hawaii).

But to imply that battery storage can provide long-term (hours, not minutes) backup power to make up for rapid drops in wind generation is simply untrue.

Utility scale storage is not close and saying that it is will only make people complacent. We need a very serious international effort to commercialize storage solutions or else Ms. Casey's dream of a society powered by renewables, a dream that I share very passionately, will become a nightmare as soon as we have to actually rely on renewables. I have covered this scenario in detail in my blog at

Test sites that demonstrate battery technology are essential and should be celebrated for what they are; baby steps on a long journey.

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Utility scale storage is not close? There are currently 35 pumped storage projects operating in the United States, with 70 more newly-proposed sites under FERC preliminary permts. Of those, probably 15-20 are strong contenders. Most of these are strategically located across regions with significant wind energy development. (see Gridflex Energy) At scales of 300 to 1,000 MW, some larger, they are large enough to meet the wind integration needs of large areas. Costs? Will vary from $1,300/kW to $2,400/kW (if the upper figure sounds high, keep in mind the 75+ year lifetime). And that's with 8-16 hours of storage time. Doesn't cover Texas - though. Too flat. But Texas has salt domes. And salt domes are the best place to put Compressed Air Energy Storage. Not the newfangled types, but the kind used since 1978 at scales of up to 300 MW. Two new 300 MW sites proposed in Texas will have more than 70 hours of storage each. Cost? Probably $1,200/kW. (see Apex CAES). So any notion that "utility scale storage is not close" is quite false. The newer technologies like batteries are sought after because they'll be more modular than centralized pumped storage and CAES. But in terms of storage time, cost/kWh of storage, lifetime...not quite necessary if you have the good 'ol pumped storage or traditional CAES nearby.

Mr. Swan happens to be correct in his assessment. Right now battery storage is fine for short-duration applications like frequency regulation and spinning reserve. Even pumped storage is too costly for capturing surplus off-peak energy and using it on-peak because in most market areas, price differentials are not wide enough to cover the cost of losses and the capital cost of the pumped storage facility itself. CAES might be less costly to build than pumped hydro, but it is more expensive to operate and it is at least as difficult to site as pumped storage.

I know lots of developers are attempting to get pumped storage sites licensed. After talking to one or two of them and reading their briefs in various regulatory proceedings, I see the same kind of gold rush mentality that caused naiive merchant developers of fossil-fired projects to put them in places where transmission lines and gas pipes crossed rather than thinking about the needs of the markets they thought they were serving.

Jack Ellis, Tahoe City, CA

Mr. Ellis - Your assessment on pumped storage is based on a flawed assumption: that the price differentials between peak and off-peak are the prime value-source for would-be pumped storage and CAES plants. No one today claims that arbitrage is the primary value source for pumped storage. The primary value source is capacity, particularly flexible and fast-responding capacity. Thus, the first box to tick off is the capital cost of the three similarly-sized combustion turbines that would have to be built in the lifetime of one pumped storage plant. The second box to tick off is ancillary services, although this is better quantified in the liquid markets than in others. The third box to tick off is arbitrage, which is still worth something, albeit not so much. Based on those three elements together, cost effective pumped storage and CAES projects - if under, say, $2,200/kW - will produce the best value of any resource on the system. Now, an interesting thing happens when you marry the wind on the grid (a pure energy source with no capacity) and the pumped storage (a pure capacity element with no energy) to the pumped storage. With sufficient storage time (particularly easy with CAES, but available from most new PS projects, too), you can actually create a firm capacity product with a "sweet spot" profile somewhere between that of a simple cycle a combined cycle capacity factor (in the low 40's) - that is filled (if one wants) entirely with renewable energy. And the combo will be competitive with the default wind+gas solution. There are today multiple cost-effective pumped storage plants proposed in Montana, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California, so "finding sites" is no longer an issue. As for CAES, it does have more severe locational constraints - i.e., the aforementioned salt is the only medium known to have worked so far, so Texas, Arizona, Kansas, and Utah are lucky - but where it can be sited, it's unbeatable. CAES consumes 1/2 to 1/3 the fuel of a CT, has a capex not much higher than combined cycle, and has enough storage to level wind on a weekly cycle.

There is a case to be made that additional electrical storage at the utility scale would NOT give a competitive advantage to wind and solar. Instead, it would give even more advantage to coal, nuclear, and natural gas.

I know because I offered that case here a few years ago:

Why? In short, energy storage is has capital costs and its inefficiencies. Hence, the power input needs to be reliable (to make best use of the sunk capital) and it needs to be cheap since you lose 1 in 4 input units to friction, overhead, etc (for pumped storage, at least.).

The real-world test of this proposition is that all large pumped storage facilities built so far (when based on technocratic analysis) have been associated with large coal or nuclear generation. The only exception that I know of is in Germany where the wind generation came first and storage was needed to ameliorate the unreliablity of wind. In other words, they needed storage because they foolishly bought too much wind. Paying attention California?

I can see possible justification for storage if it allows a bridge time for gas turbine startup (10 to 15 minutes.) That means the excessively high cost of wind has to add to its burden on the customer the cost of both backup gas turbines AND batteries. That just makes price even higher - a lose-lose situation.

15 minutes isn't long enough for you?

How about 15 hours?

20 Mw solar power facility in operation for over 2 years.

Good to see such an animated discussion. Just to clarify I am not opposed to pumped storage. I think it is great. The Bath County facility is an engineering marvel - I encourage anyone interested in storage to check out their site and the video which is quite inspiring. But to create a second large reservoir close to the main reservoir in other locations is difficult. There may be many sites being proposed but are they large enough to make a real impact?

To get an idea of the scale required it would take 3 Bath County sized facilities to be able to store the output from the existing wind generation capacity in Texas today on a windy night. It took 8 years from the time the Bath County facility was licensed until it went into production. And these days the development of large reservoirs is subject to significant resistance from some segments of the environmental community.

So yes, I support the development of as much pumped storage as we can reasonably do as quickly as possible. I just don't think it will be large enough or fast enough in North America to help us deal with wind variability in the next 5-10 years. On the other hand, pumped storage may be a significant part of the solution in Europe if they can overcome the cost/environmental challenges of building the undersea interconnects required. For more details see

Gaston La Plante' invented the lead acid storage battery in1859. Today it is used in everything that moves except some electric cars – well, not in Dream Liners, but then they don't move.

I believe Mr. Shapiro is the CEO of GridFlex Energy, a developer of pumped storage projects. I hope he will point us to a numerical analysis that supports his claims so that we can examine them ourselves. I'm not saying he's wrong but after seeing a contrived analysis by a storage advocacy organization that purportedly demonstrated how a lead-acid battery array was more cost-effective than a CT, I tend to be skeptical and like to verify the numbers myself.

Jack Ellis, Tahoe City, CA

I love the fact that Mr. Linn has pointed out the Gemasolar plant. It has been the focus of one of my recent blog posts entitled "Solar Power 7x24 365 days a year - Believe It Or Not" (see ).

Thermal Energy Storage (TES) is one of the energy storage technologies that I feel could be very important in the near future. So far this technology has only been deployed with Concentrated Solar Plants.

To answer your specific question these are flat mirrors that use dual-axis sun tracking to focus light onto a boiler structure built into the tower (the technique was developed initially at the Sandia National Laboratories The super-heated steam then powers a conventional steam turbine.

The point which Mr Shapiro studiously avoids in all his posts above is the very one that Mr. Swan focusses on. That is duration. Yes indeed pumped storage facilities can be built - the question is how much energy can be stored and how long does such pumped storage last.

The answer as Mr Shapiro will no doubt admit someday is - not very long. So on the days when the wind is not blowing you will have "blownn through" (pardon the pun) all of the stored energy in a few minutes or maybe even a few hours.

A very convenient quirk of nature allowed the construction of a 2000MW pumped storage facility in Wales. It was used very effectively for peaking loads which used to be quite severe in the UK but its ability to be able to do that for hours at a time was limited. All the water in the naturally made upper lake was all in the naturally made lower lake. Bid drop in height but very limited capacity. The same of course is true of the above projects. One would need a giganmtic upper lake and and equally gigantic lower lake otherwise the poor souls downstream of you will bet very wet.

As David Swan points out those are hard to come by naturally and very expensive to build.

So what we need from Mr Shapiro is the exact duration at full power of said miracle projects described above.

Methinks the issue will be skirted with more bafflegab.


Well you Solar enthusiasts must be talking about places a lot further south than Canada because all of our installed solar panels are covered in snow and ice at the moment .That is probably a good thing because the Sun isn't shining anyway. You cannot store what is not produced.

Thankfully we have lots of nuclear plants humming away day and night, wind or no wind, ice or no ice, to keep us warm and cozy.

But it sure does make me want to move to a sunnier place - then you don't have to worry about keeping warm.


Solar thermal has it's challenges as well. The biggest, which applies to many storage technologies, is cost. Another is losses. NO solar thermal company wants to talk about these problems but they do exist and they are the reason many of the solar thermal projects that were being developed for the California market were ultimately converted to PV.

Malcom, duration is indeed the problem, but there's also a bit of suspect logic in at least one of Mr. Shapiro's publicly available presentations. If you look here, you'll see on page 33 that Mr. Shapiro attempts to argue that a combined wind and pumped storage project with a 55% capacity factor is equal to a combined cycle plant. It's not necessarily true. Moreover, there's no mention of storage duration. Furthermore, adding an expensive pumped storage project to w combined wind/transmission project adds only 100 basis points to the internal rate of return.

I would love for this stuff to work, but in 35 years of looking at storage projects and technologies of various flavors, the only ones that seem to make economic sense at today's prices for storage employ an hour or less of energy duration and are used for ancillary services in places where the alternative is very expensive diesel fuel.

Jack Ellis, Tahoe City, CA

bill payne-----those are reflectors.

Molten Salt Thermal Storage however could be used with any type of energy generation (energy is heat).

The thing is---the MSTS system used is modular, it can be installed in modules----and greater capacity can be added at a later time as needed. Perfect for system expansion in steps. Systems could be installed in phases and expanded as timing and needs dictate.

Where pumped storage works it should be used. The same is true for wind, solar, solar thermal, biomass, and all the rest of the also-rans. When they don't work they should be ignored. The problem of course is the war against the things that work, by which I mean the war against nuclear, a new phase of which has apparently just been opened in Sweden by Greenpeace ignoramuses.

A cautionary note regarding CAES. As a junior engineer some 30 years ago, part of my duties was to monitor the underground compressed air storage facility on the mine where I worked. The price of gold in 1980 meant that we were producing ore at the full hoisting capacity of the three shafts. To do this we ran about 1000 pneumatic drills, 100 pneumatic rocker shovels and a number of pneumatic pumps and ventilators on day shift.

We could not get enough compressed air down the shafts to meet the day shift needs during the shift, so the mine built an air receiver 1,800 m x 2.8 m x 2.8 m in a disused haulage tunnel (14,000 cubic meters total capacity). If memory serves me correctly, this used to get pumped up to about 11 bar pressure on the afternoon and night shifts when the drills weren’t working so that it could augment the supply from surface during the day shift.

The process was incredibly inefficient. This was partially due to adiabatic cooling (the air delivered into the receiver cooled overnight and then cooled further as it was released into the compressed air network) and partly due to leakage (the constant cycling between 4 bar and 11 bar eventually caused fractures in the concrete plugs where the old haulage tunnel had been connected to the main intake airway).

This was were I came in – I had to hunt for leaks (in the concrete plugs) and then seal them at the weekend when the air receiver was not in use. This meant either entering the air receiver and sealing cracks in the plugs from the inside, or breaking out the old plug and building a new one.

Again, if memory serves me correctly, we calculated that the air receiver added about 3% to the total cost of producing an ounce gold, but it was considerably cheaper than alternatives (which were to either install a new air line in one of the shafts and reduce the ore hoisting capacity, or to sink a new shaft).

When it comes to using CAES for electricity, I am deeply skeptical.

Firstly, my experience in the mine taught me first hand how expensive it is to operate and maintain an CAES system.

Secondly, when salt domes are used for gas or oil storage, both pressurization and discharge tend to take place over days if not weeks and months. If they were to be used for CAES, pressurization and discharge would take place over a matter of hours. My experience in the gold mine also taught me that the constant cycling in pressure affected not only the reinforced concrete plugs, but also the hard quartzite in which the air receiver was located – large slabs of rock would spall from the sides and roof of the tunnel. Having also worked in a salt mine, where spalling occurred naturally under normal rock pressure, I can see the situation where using CAES in a salt dome could greatly increase the rate of natural collapse within the dome. IMO a lot more work needs to be done before anyone can say it is safe to use salt domes for CAES, let alone economic.

I have often been told that renewable energy with never be feasible without energy storage………………………..and storage is expensive………………..therefore, investing in wind, solar or any other renewable form of energy is a bad idea.
I was watching the sea gulls in the parking lot this morning. Seagulls, like anything and everything else have only two forms of energy available to them. Kenetic energy(wind) and potential energy(gravity).

There are a number of very tall light fixtures in the parking lot—-about 60 to 80 ft. tall I’d say. The seagulls manuever by shifting their body weight and trimming their wing spread and angle—–they turn into the wind, and the kinetic energy of the wind lifts them straight up as smoothly as if they were riding an elevator. When they get to the top—-they put their feet out, fold their wings in, and step onto the light fixture just as smoothly as you would step off and elevator that stopped at your floor for you.
From their vantage points high above the parking lot—-they can keep watch for anything and everything that seagulls keep watch for. And seagulls keep a close watch on EVERYTHING. When they see me get out of the car—-they come in a HURRY—–because you have to be fast to get to the toast croutons before the competition.
As soon as they see me they convert potential energy(by diving head first off the light fixtures) straight for the ground. About ten feet above crashing into the earth, they spread their wings—–converting the potential energy to kinetic energy—-and swooping away from certain disaster in large looping circles and turns.
Then they come over to where I’m at. Vector into the wind, trim their wing surfaces—-and hover in place, converting the kinetic energy of the wind into the potential energy of gravity stored by hovering in place.
When I throw out the toast pieces—-they change the potential energy stored into kinetic energy to swoop down and grab the pieces of toast I throw out.

They never fall. They never crash. They never miss.
And they do it all with an efficiency of economy no human system could hope to rival. The economics of seagulls is measured in calories, not in dollars.
Now, if seagulls can master a such a complex and robust energy exchange system for little pieces of toast————-it seems to me that humans should be able to figure out how to make toast with renewable energy.

Fred - I agree that humans should be smarter than seagulls - that implies that we CAN solve the energy storage issue. But we need to try. I believe an International coordinated effort is required - I compared this to the building of the ISS in a recent blog post

The disconnect for me is that we are spending literally $billions to subsidize the rollout of renewables but very little R&D money is going to utility-scale energy storage systems. At this point in time we almost have to turn things upside down. Let renewables grow as best they can without a lot of direct subsidies and pour money into utility-scale storage. Once we nail the storage problem (and we will) we can move to higher percentages of renewable electricity generation - and with the widespread adoption of electric vehicles which I believe will happen over the next 10-15 years we will be very close to the sustainable energy future we all want.

Over the history of life on this planet over 99.9% of all the creatures who have once thrived have gone extinct. (Man has had a hand in only an infinitesimal number of hastened extinction.)

“Now, if seagulls can master a such a complex and robust energy exchange system for little pieces of toast it seems to me that humans should be able to figure out how to make toast with renewable energy.”

And only humans could construct such a non sequitur.

Fred Linn, I agree with Fred Banks, pumped storage should be used where it works. I would also add the caveat “and where it is economic to do so”.

What I don’t get is the way so many people try to turn all of these discussions into a pro or anti argument for (insert technology of choice). The way I see it is that in order to meet the daily needs of all the grid connected consumers, we need x amount of baseload power and y amount of flexible peaking power (which includes energy storage). The flexible power needs to include spinning reserve to meet any sudden trip-outs by plant already operating.

Depending on the amount of flexible power available to the system, it can accommodate a greater or lesser amount of variable power (i.e. wind power, solar power, CHP optimised for heat output, tidal power, wave power etc.). So to my way of thinking, and working on the premise that electricity is absolutely essential for the maintenance of our modern way of life, the key issue is not which technology is best/worst but what is the best technology mix too:

a) ensure there is enough power to meet the needs of consumers now

b) ensure that there is long-term security of supply (by which I mean we should be thinking 30 or more years into the future)

c) minimise the cost of electricity to customers now and into the future.

Depending on individual views on climate change, some people may want to add
d) minimise GHG emissions.

Davis Swan------------------" The disconnect for me is that we are spending literally $billions to subsidize the rollout of renewables but very little R&D money is going to utility-scale energy storage systems."----------------

Then don't use utility scale storage. Each sea gull stores only as much energy as it needs for it's own flight pattern----regardless of what any of the other seagulls do.

Lots of small storage at the end of the grid could do the same job as one huge storage costing big bucks at the beginning of the grid.

Davis---you did not specify how the system in your article works---the 15 min interval is simply a switch time buffer for switching a secondary generation plan, is that correct?

I thought storage wasn't an issue until renewables form 30% of the grid. And if you add demand response you can probably get even higher than that. Ice storage for electricity A/C 'storage' at an incremental and distributed level is one simple example.

Fred: yes this is temporary backup/stabilization storage - at the control of the grid operator and used when there are very short duration blips in the wind production or when the grid has a temporary surplus - link is here

Regarding local residential storage as far as I know battery storage would be much more expensive done that way than centralized - no economies of scale. However, I do agree that geothermal offers real potential for residential storage for heating and cooling purposes and those uses create most of the peaks of electricity demand. I have advocated neighborhood geothermal as one very effective and quite cost effective way to clip the peaks ( Doesn't keep the computers and TVs going but oh well.

Davis, if what we are talking about is a battery buffer to allow switching to (let's say) diesel back up by natural gas----all that is really needed as far as storage is enough time to start up the diesels. I'd think the main expense would be in the diesel generators.

I have a home system with a 7.7 kW generator and 2600 Amh storage(4 650 amp hr LA batteries). There is 350 w trickle charge to the battery bank from a dual portable cell array that is deployed when berthed, and stowed when underway. For the most part, the solar provides most of the power I need to operate----unless I am for instance using the microwave a lot, or bathing dogs(using the blow dryers). I only very rarely need to run the generator more than once every three days to a week or so(depending on the time of year)----or if I hit the road, no need to, the batteries charge off the diesel main engine.

Lead acid batteries are dependable, rugged, easy to maintain, and relatively inexpensive.

Exotic, expensive high tech battery technology may be alluring to discuss with your buddies but plain old LA deep cycle batteries that have been around over 150 years do everything I need them to do whenever I need them and have never let me down. I don't see much need to change what works well.

Pumped storage is already used where it works. This is not a new concept. The difficulty as Davis Swann elegantly points out is that there are very few natural sites left where this is feasible and to build such sites is likely to be prohibitively expensive. Adrian is quite right when he says that the generation of electricity should not be about one technology over another but the right mix of technologies to produce the desired result. That of course depends on where you are in the world. It is my view that solar works relatively well in places where there is lots of continuous sunshine. It does not work well in cold climates or places that are frequently cloudy and of course it does not work at all at nighttime.

Similarly with wind energy. If you don't mind wrecking the landscape with hundreds of towers around the coastline then these locations are good places for wind energy generation. Not everyone lives in a windy area. Not everyone lives where it is sunny most of the time.

The majority of people live in cities where the deployment of these technologies is more difficult. I cannot imagine the average apartment dweller in NYC having access to a handy dandy diesel back up on their balcony like Fred Linn has access to. Or being able to hang their solar array out the window 30 stories up.

Those people - and they are by far the majority in most countries - rely on power from large generating stations. Perhaps that will change but we cannot make sunny places any sunnier or windy places any windier but we can readily build more power plants.

As Adrian says we need electricity to run our modern society - like it or not - even Fred Linn appears to depend on it (and the Corporations that built the diesel engine) so the only question is how do we do that in the most efficient and non-polluting way. On a large scale and for base load current nuclear technology is the clear choice both on cost and no pollution. For peaking loads natural gas is best or storage if such sites can be built.

But to try and make nuclear fit every circumstance or wind or solar offered as the universal panacea - that is a non-starter.


Malcolm----I can shoose to hook up to the grid if I want to by shoreline, or not. I am self contained----my grid goes with me where ever I go.

I cast off lines and go anytime I want.

"But to try and make nuclear fit every circumstance or wind or solar offered as the universal panacea - that is a non-starter. "

Excellent, concise summary of what is probably the biggest non-technical challenge. It would be much less so if what some of call the "true believers" paid a little more attention to the physics and economics, and less attention to policy, the "big picture", and trying to capture subsidy money.

Although I think there are already a large number of well-funded efforts aimed at storage technologies, I would not be opposed to spending a little more on R&D. Just don't mention set-asides, mandates or any other form of preference for storage because they are unlikely to make much difference in reducing costs or helping winners stand out.

Jack Ellis, Tahoe City, CA

Perhaps some insight to the question of storage could be gained by studying how the problem is solved by private industry. See chip fabs in developing world. At now, they use very short-term lead-acid batteries combined with high reliability diesel generators.

An interesting opportunity for pumped storage at a useful location is the Niagra escarpment divide between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. It would be a huge project to bore the tunnels required, but the storage on each side is practically unlimited. It appears that Beck Niagra station can generate about 2GW using ?? 2,000 m3/s water. That's ?? 30 million cu meters for 8 GW-hrs storage. Lake Erie has a 25,000 km^2 area, or 25,000 million sq meter area, so that much storage would cause the water level to fluctuate by about 1.3 mm. To back up the entire 28 GW of peak usage in Ontario for 8 hours would cause a level change of about 3.7 cm, or 1.5 inches. For a 10x increase to cover the entire US industrial heartland would cause a 37 cm fluctuation, about 15 inches. Perhaps a bit of a large fluctuation, but would only happen occasionally at that level.

Len - interesting idea. Given the costs of reently built railway tunnels as one rough estimator it would cost on the order of $5-$10 billion to bore tunnels through the entire 40 km wide issmus. It might be somewhat cheaper to essentially create a parallel to the Welland canal which would end near the north side at the top of the escarpment, then tunnel from there. As you suggest this is an ideal location for massive pumped storage.

Just to confirm, my estimates above turn out very accurate regarding lake levels. Per WikiAnswers - Hydro generation,

P = (g i) h * effic.

Where P = power (W), g = acceleration due to gravity (9.81 m/s2), i = rate of flow of water (kg/s), and h = head of water (m), and effic. is turbine and generator efficiency in percent.

So, if we assume a head of water as, say, 100 m at Niagra, then we can determine the rate of flow of water to generate 1000 000 W, as follows:

i = P / (g h * effic) = 1000 000 / (9.81 x 100 * .75) = 1290 kg/s = 1.29 m3 / s. Therefore, 2 GW would require 2,580 m3/s water, about 25% more than my estimate.

So an 8 hr. backup for 280 GW would cause Lakes Erie and Ontario to fluctuate about 46 cm, or 19 inches.

Of course the actual difference in elevation between Lakes Erie and Ontario is only exactly 100 m, and it is unlikely all of that could be made useful if open canals were used.... Perhaps another 10% hit on efficiency?

Of course the perfect situation would be to connect the water turbine/pumps directly to the shafts of the turbines of nuclear generators. Then one could a) avoid wasting the energy of generating electricity to pump water back into storage, b) exploit the transmission system of the pumped storage facility to deliver nuclear power when wanted, c) exploit the water frow of the hydro facility in the condensers of the reactor turbines, and d) employ the guaranteed power availability of the hydro turbines as backup power for the reactors.

Obviously too logical for reality.

Len, Soon after Noah's flood I derived an expression to quickly estimate pump HP on my slide rule. HP=delta psi x gpm/1714. (e @100% and sp grav@1.0) Using a head of 100 meters I get 1.02 If I back out your 75% efficiency I get 1.36, not so far from your 1.29 m^3 per second calculated flow per 1000 kw.

Hey Len - you can reach me at the address on my website at Debarel. We should collaborate on a detailed post on this idea - outrageous to think we could backup the entire North American continent by raising and lowering Lake Erie 19 inches every night - a freshwater tide! Definitely would make a great post on my Black Swan Blog.


There is a 13kM tunnel being constructed under the city of Niagara Falls Canada as we speak to do just what you said. It is not pumped storage because there is no need to pump it but there is already a very large reservoir above Beck GS. The overnight water from above the falls is diverted into tunnels to fill the reservoir then it is let out during peak periods. You don't need to pump it as mother nature did that for you.

Sorry but that one has already been done.


Mr Linn You are about as self contained as the nearest parts distributor for your diesel or fuel supplier for your engine.

Malcolm. Though it is indeed somewhat impressive, with it's 14+ meter diameter tunnel bored by the largest hardrock boring machine in the world, the new addition to the Beck station's peaking capacity is puny by comparison to what I proposed. The total flow of the Niagra river at maximum is capable of providing only 100 GW if the falls were completely shut down, whereas I was proposing development of a 280 GW installation while leaving the falls untouched.