The hydraulic barrier has huge potential: it’s time to bet on renewables

This post follows the interest shown by many blog readers regarding the role of the “hydraulic buffer” in serving Renewable energy (See Figure 1). It has emphasized the huge potential of this technology on a global scale, given that both renewable and non-modifiable (for example, atomic energy) thermal production have an enormous need for storage Which, on a medium and large scale, other technologies are not yet able to guarantee. I embrace the old, outdated, and nostalgic definition of “hydraulic buffer” Because it celebrates Italian historical excellence in conceptualizing and developing this technology.

There is a strong asymmetry between demand and production – wind, solar and marine – even greater than that between demand and production from fossil and fissile sources. Storage is necessary. And if the storage system is to be economical, reliable, maneuverable and fast, the answer is hydraulics (see Figure 2). There are approximately 530,000 potential hydroelectric storage sites in the world, with huge potential. About 22 million gigawatt-hours can be installed, A hundred times more than required To support a global electricity system based on 100% renewable sources.

From this point of view, Italy has done well in the past 40 years and, above all, still has huge potential to develop at fully sustainable costs, as evidenced by a study published last year (Baldovin, E., Morelli, GL & M. Walls, Hydroelectric pumping in the energy transition: the Italian caseWater, 2, 2021). Our country has done well, with about 6.6 GW installed in Italy. But he did it with the usual squintthe eye of the north of the country, where we find 67 percent of the installed capacity, while the center and south host only 22 percent of the production capacity, and the islands (Sicily and Sardinia) are modest 11 (see Figure 3).

This geographical distribution was based on plausible historical reasons, connected with the concentration of industry in northern Italy, even if there was no shortage of energy-intensive poles in the south; For example steel mills in Taranto. The script has it though overturned. The southern regions and the main islands represent weather conditions more desirable Development of photovoltaic, wind energy and marine systems. The climate war, along with the Ukrainian battle, is forcing the country to bet on renewable energy sources.

Without sufficient hydraulic buffer is visiblereproduction However, it may risk canceling a significant portion of the benefits from wind, solar, marine, and geothermal. The center, south and islands are distinguished by the presence of several artificial water basins, mainly irrigated. Most of them will be suitable for the construction of a network of distributed reservoirs, a widespread system of hydroelectric pumping stations. The potential is enormous (see Figure 4) and, in practice, can be exploited by connecting nearby reservoirs at different heights or by combining an existing reservoir with a nearby basin at an appropriate height. And all at a low cost, as these systems can be built in the face of beneficial maintenance interventions.

It is these days the news thatIndia Launched two major hydraulic insulator projects. Adani Group, one of the most industrial parks, recently signed an agreement to utilize storage capacity greencoa leading Indian company active in the field of renewable energy: promise me It will use approximately 6 GWh of storage capacity for its industrial facilities. Under another agreement, the Indian joint venture Arcelor Metal Nippon Steel will buy 250 MW of renewable energy from Greenko, and invest in 975 MW of renewable energy as well as a storage project in Andhra Pradesh. Last year, ArcelorMittal announced aggressive plans to increase the supply of renewable energy in India. It delivers on its promise, as the project will be completed by 2024.

Between 2023 and 2030, there is an urgent need for Italy to build a growing electricity storage capacity, if it is to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of the system. Feed more and more from renewable sources. And if the investment costs range from one to one and a half million euros per installed megawatt, then the hydraulic solution is the solution. more rational. Whatever the efficiency and sophistication of batteries in the future, secluded cars, trucks and homes are doomed. To achieve this goal, Italy must solve the problem of specific legislation, which is still lacking, which rationalizes and simplifies procedures and delegation times. Having extensively explored negotiating a hydropower partnership with the Indian hydropower industry, I have experienced the length and complexity of their times and methods. I realize that with amazement they do it. If they can run a gigawatt project in about three years, why can’t we, too?

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