Chile plans hydropower plant—in desert

December 10, 2015
Chile plans to build a hydroelectric power plant in the world's most arid desert—the Atacama—in a revolutionary attempt to gener
Chile plans to build a hydroelectric power plant in the world's most arid desert—the Atacama—in a revolutionary attempt to generate green energy

Building a $400-million hydroelectric power plant in the world's most arid desert may seem like an engineering debacle, but Chile sees it as a revolutionary way to generate green energy.

The idea is to take advantage of the Atacama Desert's unique geography to solve one of the most sticky problems of renewable energies like solar and wind power: inconsistency.

The sun is not always shining and the wind is not always blowing, but in long and narrow Chile, there are always mountains next to the sea.

Chilean energy company Valhalla wants to use solar power to pump water from the Pacific Ocean into two reservoirs high in the Andes mountains.

Then it will be allowed to rush back down into a with a capacity of 300 megawatts—enough to power three provinces in Chile, a net energy importer that relies mainly on fossil fuels.

"This is the only place in the world where a project of this kind can be developed," said Francisco Torrealba, the company's strategy manager.

The two mountaintop reservoirs will hold as much water as approximately 22,000 Olympic swimming pools, enough to generate electricity around the clock.

"The technology has been super well tested around the world. It's this particular combination that has never been tried," said Torrealba.

The plant got the green light from environmental authorities last week.

Valhalla is seeking investors and hopes to break ground in late 2016, with an estimated construction timeline of three and a half years.

It is also studying three other areas with similar characteristics.

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hemitite
4 / 5 (4) Dec 10, 2015
They better plan to cover them, as evaporation from those reservoirs equals lost energy, and the added atmospheric moisture might mess with the seeing of all the huge telescopes in that area.
DavidW
1.2 / 5 (5) Dec 10, 2015
MY first guess is that it is an attempt of outside people to own the power supply there. Few would invest in anything like this without security.
24volts
5 / 5 (2) Dec 10, 2015
No real particular reason why it shouldn't work if there is more than enough solar and wind power operating there to keep the reservoirs full and provide power to the consumers at the same time. The reservoirs can be used when the alternative stuff isn't putting out enough.

Or do they plan to use only the reservoirs for power to consumers? That isn't going to work well unless they will have a big backup amount of water in them.
rolf_dupont_hansen
1.9 / 5 (9) Dec 11, 2015
Hydro are not "green" or renewable!

Its the main driver in polluting the ecosystems with methylmercury...
TechnoCreed
4.1 / 5 (9) Dec 11, 2015
Hydro are not "green" or renewable!

Its the main driver in polluting the ecosystems with methylmercury...

Oh yeah methylmercury, that is the secret of our longevity in Quebec. 79 years man, 83 years woman.

Hydro-Quebec 23000 MW of continuous power that is around 2875kw per capita and can satisfy a peak demand of 37000 MW. 99% of this energy is created from hydro dams.

But hey! Everybody knows that you have to burry a Quebecer in a toxic waste dump. ;-p

-Idiot-

Mercury methylisation is caused by bacterial decomposition. The exceeding decomposition of vegetation is over in just a few years. The mercury levels in the fishes are back to normal within 20 years. The reservoirs are there for thousands of years.
Shootist
1.5 / 5 (8) Dec 11, 2015
Damn I hope it does more that generate "green" energy. Otherwise it will be a colossal waste of a poor nations scarce resources.

"Generally speaking, I'm much more of a conformist, but it happens I have strong views about climate because I think the majority is badly wrong, and you have to make sure if the majority is saying something that they're not talking nonsense." - Freeman Dyson.

When Freeman Dyson says your science is rubbish it probably is.
antialias_physorg
4.3 / 5 (11) Dec 11, 2015
They better plan to cover them, as evaporation from those reservoirs equals lost energy

There are plenty of hydroreservoirs in the world. None of them are covered. You get one guess why that is so.

, and the added atmospheric moisture might mess with the seeing of all the huge telescopes in that area

'That area' is rather large. And there are lakes up in the Andes already (among them the largest lake in the entirety of South America - Lake Titicaca). If that doesn't futz with the telescopes, then a few swimming pools worth aren't likley to, either.
Eikka
5 / 5 (4) Dec 11, 2015
No real particular reason why it shouldn't work if there is more than enough solar and wind power operating there to keep the reservoirs full and provide power to the consumers at the same time.


Whether it works or not depends on the size and height of the reservoirs relative to the supply and demand. There can be supply gaps and shortages of several days to a week coinciding with high demand - in the regular grid there are usually provisions for 3-6 months of backup available for worst case considerations, such as war or natural disaster that disrupts fuel supply.

22,000 olympic size swimming pools is 22,000 x 2,500 m3 = 55 billion kilos of water.

24h x 300 MW converts to 26 terajoules of potential energy and by the simple equation e=mgh we see that 55 billion kilos needs to be lifted up by a mere 48 meters. Twice that if you account for efficiency and evaporation.

That's a normal run-of-the-river hydroelectric plant with a rather large 15 sq-km lake behind it.
Eikka
5 / 5 (7) Dec 11, 2015
You get one guess why that is so


Because nobody bothers?

With a large artifical lake high up in the Andes, that would be a perfect spot for floating photovoltaics. Cover the entire lake with them - solve two problems at once.
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (4) Dec 11, 2015
Because nobody bothers?

Because it'd costs a lot, has no effect and would create an ideal environment for fouling bacteria.
Up high it's also cold (even in South America). Evaporation is minimal. And by completely covering a lake you'd also prevent any rainfall/snow from adding to the reservoir 'for free'.
MR166
3 / 5 (4) Dec 11, 2015
The nice thing about pumping water with wind power is that you do not need as sophisticated a transmission to do so. The wind turbines should be cheaper to build and maintain. As far as solar cells floating on this new salt water lake goes I think that the salt deposits would wreck havoc with the solar panels.
Hyperfuzzy
5 / 5 (1) Dec 11, 2015
So, the water sump is like a storage battery. Pump it up and use it at will. Nice idea, great use of geography.
greenonions
3.8 / 5 (5) Dec 11, 2015
MR166
The nice thing about pumping water with wind power is that you do not need as sophisticated a transmission to do so.


But don't you still have to get the power from the wind turbines to the pumping station, and then from there out to the end users? It would seem like the same thing to me.
MR166
4 / 5 (4) Dec 11, 2015
"But don't you still have to get the power from the wind turbines to the pumping station, and then from there out to the end users? It would seem like the same thing to me.

No the wind turbines are mechanically connected to the pumps directly with no need for an intermediate electrical stage. This eliminates a lot of conversion losses.
Eikka
3 / 5 (2) Dec 11, 2015
Because it'd costs a lot, has no effect


It costs a lot, but it has an effect. You got a 30% long term loss of energy due to evaporation.

Existing hydroelectric dams are simply not designed as storage systems - they don't actually have the capacity or the permission to raise and lower their reservoir levels enough to matter, so the evaporation doesn't matter. They're more concerned with flooding and overflowing because there's billions of tons of water rolling in from upstream.

But when you have a 15 sq-km lake solely for the purpose of storing energy, evaporation starts to become an issue.
Eikka
3 / 5 (4) Dec 11, 2015
No the wind turbines are mechanically connected to the pumps directly with no need for an intermediate electrical stage. This eliminates a lot of conversion losses.


And where exactly would these wind turbines be sited, and how many of them would you have, and how would you practically plumb them into the water pipes coming in from the sea up the mountain?

It seems to me that pumping water uphill with thousands of small pumps connected with thousands and thousands of miles of distribution pipe would be both more costly and less efficient than running a few big electric pumps in a single large pipeline.

For one thing, electric cables don't just spring leaks. The second thing is, to get 300 MW average power out of wind turbines, you generally need to spread them out over about 300 square kilometers.

greenonions
5 / 5 (4) Dec 11, 2015
MR166
No the wind turbines are mechanically connected to the pumps directly with no need for an intermediate electrical stage. This eliminates a lot of conversion losses.


Did you get this information from somewhere? Do you have a link that we could peruse? I am very skeptical that this would be a practical way of doing things - would love to see some details.
del2
5 / 5 (3) Dec 11, 2015
Existing hydroelectric dams are simply not designed as storage systems

The Dinorwig pumped-storage hydro-electric plant in Wales is exactly that.
Eikka
4 / 5 (5) Dec 11, 2015
Existing hydroelectric dams are simply not designed as storage systems

The Dinorwig pumped-storage hydro-electric plant in Wales is exactly that.


And there are only a handful of such hydroelectric plants around the world. The vast majority of them were built along rivers.
antigoracle
2.3 / 5 (6) Dec 11, 2015
What of the effect of all that salt water on the ecology of the surrounding land?
Is it inconsequential?
Eikka
5 / 5 (3) Dec 12, 2015
What of the effect of all that salt water on the ecology of the surrounding land?
Is it inconsequential?


As far as the project is concerned, the less water that ends up in the surrounding land, the better.

Of course they're going to line the thing up with clay and plastic and concrete to stop water from simply percolating out of the reservoir.
aeolius
5 / 5 (2) Dec 12, 2015
The idea for a pump storage hydroelectric plant goes at least back to 1962. When such a plant was proposed in the Storm King region of New York State by a private utility. The court challenge and the final victory by environmentalists was the start of the legal standing that the Environment has today in Federal Courts
gkam
1.7 / 5 (6) Dec 12, 2015
Meanwhile, to gauge this against other sources, go here:

http://www.inquis...rce/obj/
gkam
1.8 / 5 (5) Dec 12, 2015
Oops, double-post
antigoracle
3 / 5 (2) Dec 12, 2015
And where exactly would these wind turbines be sited

How about, out at sea.
rolf_dupont_hansen
3 / 5 (2) Dec 12, 2015
Hydro are not "green" or renewable!

Its the main driver in polluting the ecosystems with methylmercury...


-Idiot-

Mercury methylisation is caused by bacterial decomposition. The exceeding decomposition of vegetation is over in just a few years. The mercury levels in the fishes are back to normal within 20 years. The reservoirs are there for thousands of years.


Are you talking about yourself?

Because what everyone knows is a lot of organic material and small particles from the atmosphere from burning coal and organic materials and other processes will always keep the methylisation process going, as its a process happening primary when materials sink from the surface water down the water column.

http://www.iflsci...lmercury
TechnoCreed
3 / 5 (4) Dec 12, 2015
-Idiot- ...


Are you talking about yourself?

Because what everyone knows is a lot of organic material and small particles from the atmosphere from burning coal and organic materials and other processes will always keep the methylisation process going, as its a process happening primary when materials sink from the surface water down the water column.

http://www.iflsci...lmercury

Nothing you have wrote or linked contradicts what I have stated. Not even an article written by an activist. If you want to know more about mercury methylation, let me give you a proper source of information. Those sources are called Universities also recognised as "temples of knowledge". Here is good example: https://www.princ...ylation/

Oh sorry, I might have insulted you, since you linked a page from 'I Fucking Love Science'. Let me restate -Fucking Idiot-

hyongx
1 / 5 (1) Dec 12, 2015
use solar power to pump water from the Pacific Ocean into two reservoirs

has anyone done hydroelectric with saltwater yet?
doesnt the saltwater accelerate the degredation of the hydroelectric infrastructure and the pumping infracstructure dramatically?
betterexists
3 / 5 (4) Dec 12, 2015
Luckily, No Fresh Water Alone requirement; They should let the Water flow down in different directions & Collect the Salt from the dried up Waters below.
betterexists
1.6 / 5 (7) Dec 12, 2015
We have Flyovers for Vehicles. Similarly, Graphene based Overhead Reservoirs Near all the unpopulated Beaches should be made mandatory. JUST FLOW THE SEA WATER BACK DOWN!
Some Animals will Run Away from the Commotion; Some might love it all. Disney World for Marine Animals, WoW!
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Dec 12, 2015
And where exactly would these wind turbines be sited

How about, out at sea.


Even better. Now you have the problem of connecting up and maintaining pipelines to 300 sq-km of wind turbines - under water.
del2
5 / 5 (4) Dec 12, 2015
has anyone done hydroelectric with saltwater yet?

Yes, there are several in operation. The first (as far as I know) was the Rance Tidal Power Station in France, which became operational in 1966.
Mr_Ed
1 / 5 (2) Dec 13, 2015
Pumped water storage is an excellent way to solve the solar/wind problems. Chile already has windmills, but the wind is consistently out of step with usage. And they have lots of desert where it never rains. Perfect for solar.
And since it's Chile, I'm sure that environmental reviews can be done quickly and under the table. After all, what possible environmental consequence could possibly arise from pumping sea water into mountain valleys and covering large swaths of desert with solar panels?
rolf_dupont_hansen
2 / 5 (4) Dec 13, 2015
Nothing you have wrote or linked contradicts what I have stated. Not even an article written by an activist. If you want to know more about mercury methylation, let me give you a proper source of information. Those sources are called Universities also recognised as "temples of knowledge". Here is good example: https://www.princ...ylatio

Oh sorry, I might have insulted you, since you linked a page from 'I Fucking Love Science'. Let me restate -Fucking Idiot-


Except it contradicts completely what you are saying, as you only say it is the organic matter you flood under commision of the dam that is involved in the process of releasing and methylisation of mercury.

Well your link contradicts yourself, just as my IFL link, based on newer research.

The other funny fact is that there are consensus about hydro is a very bad thing, like burning biomass, by the leading climate scientist...

So yes a fucking idiot you sure are... I would rather call you a retarded troll...
DavidW
1.8 / 5 (5) Dec 13, 2015


So yes a fucking idiot you sure are... I would rather call you a retarded troll...


Please don't come here to lie and call people things they are not. We have enough people here already disregarding the truth and starting flame wars.
Lord_jag
5 / 5 (2) Dec 13, 2015
Why are you all concerned about evaporation?

Have you seen how the people of Chile have fog nets all over the mountains to catch condensation before it crosses the mountains? For some villages it's their only source of drinking water.

The more evaporation in the desert valley the better. It will cause more condensation on their fog nets.

The worst thing that could happen to the power generation is a lifesaver for the people. Win win.
rolf_dupont_hansen
5 / 5 (1) Dec 15, 2015

Please don't come here to lie and call people things they are not. We have enough people here already disregarding the truth and starting flame wars.


LOL is that your best answer as a complete physics ignorant...

So there by you also say that the leading scientist are lying:

http://www.thegua...e-change
greenonions
not rated yet Dec 16, 2015
rolf
So there by you also say that the leading scientist are lying:


Perhaps it is more that some scientists think that nukes are required - and others disagree. I am fine either way - and hope that we do put the research into developing safe affordable next gen nukes - but I do understand that my opinion and $1 buys you a cheap cup of coffee. The case is not that simple.

http://singularit...al-says/

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