Tag: hydro-electric power

Capacity Market Agreements

Cruachan pylons

Drax Group plc
(“Drax” or the “Group”; Symbol:DRX)
RNS Number : 8747R

T-4 auction – provisional results for existing pumped storage and hydro assets

Drax confirms that it has provisionally secured agreements to provide a total of 617MW of capacity (de-rated 582MW) principally from its pumped storage and hydro assets(1). The agreements are for the delivery period October 2024 to September 2025, at a price of £18/kW(2) and are worth around £10 million in that period. These are in addition to existing agreements which extend to September 2024.

T-4 auction – provisional results for new build system support assets

Drax confirms that it has provisionally secured 15-year agreements for three new 299MW (de-rated 284MW) Open Cycle Gas Turbine (OCGT) projects at sites in England and Wales(3). The agreements are for the delivery period October 2024 to September 2039, at a price of £18/kW(2) and are worth around £230 million in that period.

Artist’s impression of a Drax rapid-response gas power station (OCGT)

Artist’s impression of a rapid-response gas power station (OCGT)

These assets are intended to operate for short periods of time to meet specific system support needs. As the UK transitions towards a net zero economy, it will become increasingly dependent on wind generation and as such, fast response system support technologies such as these OCGTs are increasingly important to the energy system as a means to enable more wind to run more often and more securely.

The total capital cost of these projects is approximately £80-90 million each, with a build time of around two years.

A further OCGT project participated in the auction but exited above the clearing price and did not accept an agreement.

Drax will now evaluate options for all four OCGT projects including their potential sale.

Continued focus on biomass strategy and the development of negative emissions

In December 2019 Drax announced an ambition to become a carbon negative company by 2030 using Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) and the Group remains focused on its biomass strategy. In January 2021 Drax completed the sale of its Combined Cycle Gas Generation (CCGT) assets and in March 2021 ends commercial coal generation. Drax believes that its remaining portfolio of sustainable biomass, pumped storage and hydro will be amongst the lowest carbon generation portfolios in Europe.

Enquiries

Drax Investor Relations: Mark Strafford

+44 (0) 7730 763 949

Media

Drax External Communications: Ali Lewis

+44 (0) 7712 670 888

Website: www.drax.com/northamerica

Pumping power: pumped storage stations around the world

Loch Awe from Cruachan

Changing the world’s energy systems is a more complex task than just replacing coal power stations with wind farms. Moving to an energy system with more intermittent renewable sources like wind and solar will require greater levels of storage that can deliver electricity when it’s needed.

One of the long-established means of storing energy and using it to generate electricity when needed is through pumped hydropower storage. With upper and lower reservoirs of water, and turbines in between, these facilities act a bit like rechargeable batteries.

When there is excess electricity on the grid, the turbines are switched on to pump water from the lower to the higher reservoir (for example up a mountain or hill) where it’s stored. When electricity is needed, the water is released to flow from the higher reservoir toward the lower reservoir, passing through the turbines which generate electricity to send back to the grid.

Greater levels of intermittent renewables on energy systems around the world will make pumped storage all the more vital in helping to balance grids. Their mountainous locations also make pumped storage stations some of the most dramatic and interesting monuments in energy.

Here are some of the most interesting pumped hydro stations generating power and pumping water up mountains in the world:

1. The largest in the world (currently)

Bath County in Virginia, USA is dense with forests and mountain retreats, but below the scenery of the Allegheny Mountains lies the world’s biggest pumped hydro power station.

View of Appalachian mountains along Highway 220 in Warm Springs, Bath County, Virginia

The Bath County Pumped Storage Station has a maximum generation capacity of more than 3 gigawatts (GW) and total storage capacity of 24 gigawatt-hours (GWh), the equivalent to the total, yearly electricity use of about 6000 homes.

Construction began in March 1977 and upon completion in December 1985, the power station had a generating capacity of 2.1 GW. However, its six turbines were upgraded between 2004 and 2009 to over 500 MW per turbine. The power station’s upper reservoir can hold 14,000,000 cubic metres (m3) of water and its water level can drop by as much as 32 metres during operations.

While the amount of earth and rock moved during the construction of the dam and facilities would make a mountain more than 300 metres tall, the actual station occupies a relatively small amount of land to minimise its impact on the environment. The water from the upper reservoir has a use beyond power too – at times of drought it’s used to supplement river flow in the recreational area that surrounds the site.

2. The future largest in the world

Bath County will not be the world’s largest pumped hydro station for much longer. While China is already home to more of the top 10 largest pumped storage power stations than any other country, the Fengning Pumped Storage Power Plant in China’s Hebei Province will take the top position when completed in 2023, thanks to its 3.6 GW capacity.

Landscape of the Bashang grassland in Hebei, China

Construction first began on the monster project in June 2013 and is being developed in two 1.8 GW stages. The first stage is scheduled for completion in 2021, when six of the 12 planned 300 MW reversable pump turbine units roar into life.

The plant will serve Beijing-Tianjin-North Hebei electrical grid and highlights the rapid growth of renewables in the region. Fengning will act as a peaking plant to balance the expansive wind and solar parks in China’s northern Hebei and Inner Mongolia regions.

China has more installed pumped hydro storage capacity than any other country, thanks in large part to its extensive mountainous terrain (which can accommodate such facilities), as well as an increasing need to support growing intermittent renewable installations. The construction of Fengning, part of a pipeline of projects, will further the country’s capabilities, helping China reach as much as 40 GW of installed capacity in the coming years.

3. Most reversable turbines

Fengning will also take the record for the most individual turbine units in a pumped storage facility when it’s finished in 2023, a title that is currently jointly held by Huizhou Pumped Storage Power Station and Guangdong Pumped Storage Power Station. These two plants are the respective second and third largest pumped storage plants in the world today, each with eight reversable turbines.

Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province, China

While Guangdong Pumped Storage Power Station has a capacity of 2.4 GW, Huizhou has a slightly larger capacity of 2.448 GW. The increased number of turbines might mean more machinery to maintain and operate, but also offers the plants greater flexibility in how much electricity they absorb and generate.

4. Multiple dams and reservoirs

The Drakensberg Pumped Storage Scheme, located in the Drakensberg Mountains in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, is a unique hydro facility thanks to its use of four dams. The Driekloof Dam, Sterkfontein Dam, Kilburn Dam and Woodstock Dam give the facility a generation capacity of 1 GW, and a total storage capacity of over 27 GWh. However, Drakensberg is not the largest facility in South Africa.

Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa

Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa

South Africa holds a total installed pumped storage capacity of nearly 3 GW from its four large facilities. The newest, and largest, is the Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme, which has a generation capacity of over 1.3 GW. Its name, ‘Ingula’, was inspired by the foamy river waters surrounding the facility and comes from the Zulu word for the creamy foam on the top of a milk vessel.

5. The oldest working pumped storage plant

Another country with the ideal terrain for pumped storage is Switzerland. The Alpine country’s landscape feeds water into Europe’s rivers such as the Rhine, making water a plentiful supply for the country’s energy. Hydropower as a whole accounts for around 57% of the country’s energy production and the country was one of the first to begin deploying pumped storage systems in the 1890s, although these were initially used for water management rather than supporting electricity generation.

Water dam and reservoir lake in Swiss Alps to produce hydropower

Switzerland is also home to the world’s oldest working pumped storage plant. The Engeweiher pumped storage facility was built in 1907 before reversable turbines were introduced in the 1930s. It was renewed in the early 1990s and is scheduled to continue operating until at least 2052.

6. The biggest in Europe

The Alps are also home to Europe’s biggest hydroelectric facility. In France, the Grand Maison hydroelectric power station operates in the Isère area of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, and has a capacity of 1.8 GW. During peak demand, it takes only three minutes for the station to supply its full 1.8 GW of power to the National Electricity Grid of France.

Grand Maison Hydroelectric Power Station

Sitting at an altitude of 1,698 metres the majority of the water that fills the upper reservoir, created by the Grand Maison Dam, comes from melted snow. This reservoir has a storage capacity of 140,000,000 m3 of water.

7. The biggest in the UK

Across the Channel, the UK also boasts impressive hydropower and pumped storage credentials, having used water for electricity generation since 1879. The UK has a total hydropower capacity of over 4.7 GW, including 2.8 GW of pumped storage, with the wet, mountainous landscapes of Scottish Highlands and Welsh countryside particularly well suited to hydropower facilities.

Dinorwig hydroelectric power station

The largest of these is the Dinorwig Hydro Power Station which sits at the edge of Snowdonia National Park in north west Wales, although it’s hard to spot as most of the machinery is found underground. With a total capacity of over 1.7 GW, this pumped storage plant can power 2.5 million homes and is known by locals as ‘Electric Mountain’.

8. The station lying between the lochs

Surrounded by Loch Etive and Loch Nant, and perched on the north side of Loch Awe, Drax’s Cruachan Power Station was built between 1959 and 1965, 1 km inside of a hollowed-out mountain in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. Upon completion, the power station, also known as the ‘Hollow Mountain’, was opened by Queen Elizabeth II and can currently generate 440 MW of hydroelectric power in 30 seconds, helping to maintain stability on the electricity grid.

Cruachan Dam in Argyll and Bute

A proposed sister station, Cruachan 2, which would stand adjacent to the existing facility, could enable Cruachan to produce up to twice as much power, increasing its support of renewables coming onto the grid.

9. The world’s smallest

The Goudemand apartment building in the city of Arras, France is home to an extremely small pumped storage hydroelectricity system, with no mountain in sight. The residential building was transformed in 2012 to become grid-independent through the installation of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries and a 200 square metre (m2) open air water tank sitting on its roof. This tank, 30 metres above the ground, acts as an upper reservoir and is connected to five 10 m2 plastic water tanks in the basement, the lower reservoir.

Arras, France

While the 3.5 KWh (kilowatt-hours) capacity of the building’s micro facility is small, it provides useful knowledge to researchers, opening up the possibility of small, modular pumped storage systems to be developed and deployed at scale in the future.

The myths, legends and reality of Cruachan Power Station’s mural

Down the kilometre-long tunnel that burrows into the dark rock of Ben Cruachan, above the giant rumbling turbines, sits something unusual for a power station: a work of art.

The wood and gold-leaf mural might seem at odds with the yellow metal turbines, granite cavern walls, and noise and heat around it, but it’s closely connected to the power station and its ties to the surrounding landscape.

The entrance tunnel might take engineers and machines to the heart of Ben Cruachan, but the mural transports viewers to the mountain’s mythical past. It tells the story of how this remarkable engineering achievement came to help power the country.

The narrative of the mural

Much like the machines and physical environment surrounding it, the Cruachan mural is big, measuring 14.6 metres long by 3.6 metres tall. Combining wood, plastic and gold leaf, the relief is interspersed with Celtic crosses, textures evocative of granite rock and gold orbs that resemble the urban lights Cruachan helps to power. Running from left to right, it tells a linear narrative that spans the history of the mountain.

An artist’s impression of the mural in the Visitor Centre at Cruachan

In the first of the mural’s three segments is a Scottish red deer, a native species that still thrives in Scotland today. Below it is the figure of the Cailleach Bheur, a legendary old woman or hag found across Gaelic mythology in Scotland, Ireland and on the Isle of Man. The Cailleach has a symbolic representation of a variety of roles in different folklores, but she commonly appears as a personification of winter, and with that, as a source of destruction.

In the context of Ben Cruachan, Cailleach Bheur is often taken to mean the ‘Old Hag of The Ridges,’ a figure who acts as the mythical guardian of a spring on the mountain’s peak. The mural tells her story, of how she was tasked to cover the well with a slab of stone at sundown and lift it away at sunrise. One evening, however, she fell asleep and failed to cover the well, allowing it to overflow and cause water to cascade down the mountain, flooding the valley below and drowning the people and their cattle.

The mural within the Turbine Hall at Cruachan Power Station undergoing maintenance  [November 2018]

This serves as the legendary origins of Loch Awe, from which Cruachan power station pumps water to the upper reservoir when there’s excess electricity on the grid.

The story claims the water washed a path through to the sea, creating the Pass of Brander. The site of a 1308 battle in the Scottish Wars of Independence, where Robert the Bruce defeated the English-aligned MacDougall and Macnaghten clans.

The mythical first section of the mural is separated by a Celtic-style cross from the modern second segment, which portrays the power station’s construction within Ben Cruachan. Here, four figures represent the four lead engineers of the project from the firms James Williamson & Partners, William Tawse Ltd, Edmund Nuttall Ltd and Merz & McLellan. They stand by the mountain, a roughly cut path running through its core.

At the base of the mural are the faces of 15 men lying on their sides. These are the  15 who were killed in  1962 when the ceiling of the turbine hall caved in during construction. Their uniform expressionless faces, however, turn them into symbols of the 30-plus workers who died while digging and blasting the power station’s tunnels and constructing the dam at the upper reservoir.

Next to this is a fairy tale portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II, who wears a gold grown and holds a sceptre from which electricity flows in a glowing lightning bolt through rock, commanding the power station into life.

The final third of the mural shows the whole power station system within the mountain. The upper reservoir sits nestled in the slopes of Ben Cruachan with water flowing down the mountain to the four turbines and Loch Awe below. Viewed as a whole, the mural takes the audience from mythology to the modern power station, which continues to play a vital role in the electricity system today.

Carving the Cruachan mural

The mural was created by artist Elizabeth Falconer, who was commissioned to create it to celebrate the power station’s opening by the Queen on 15 October 1965. At the time, only two of Cruachan’s four 100 megawatt (MW) reversible turbines were completed and operational, but it was still the first station of its kind to operate at such a scale. Two of the power station’s  turbines were modified with increased capacities meaning Cruachan can both use and generate up to 440 MW.

HRH Queen Elizabeth II opening Cruachan in 1965

HRH Queen Elizabeth II opening Cruachan on 15 October 1965

The project came to Falconer through her husband, a native of Aberdeen who worked as an architect partner to one of Cruachan’s engineering firms. The brief simply requested she create a piece to fill the empty space on the wall of the turbine hall. Deciding to dive into the history and mythology of the mountain, she initially carved the mural in London and only ventured into Hollow Mountain years after it was first put in place, to make renovations on the work.

Cruachan Power Station was a visionary idea and represented a considerable technical and engineering achievement when it opened. The designs and construction of the reversable turbines put this site at the cutting end of modern energy technology.

So, it’s fitting the mural appears distinctly modern in its design, yet tells a story that connects this modern power station to the ancient rock it lives within.

It’s Cruachan’s mural’s location inside the mountain that makes it so unique as a work of art. However, at a time when the electricity grid is changing to an increasingly renewable system, based more around weather and geography, the connections the mural makes between Scotland’s landscape and the modern power station, make it relevant beyond the turbine cavern.



Find out more about Cruachan Power Station

How river-powered hydro schemes work

Waterflow outside Glenlee Power Station

Hydro power is one of the most widespread sources of electricity generation in the world – it is also one of the biggest. Nine of the world’s ten largest power stations are hydro powered. Facilities such as the Three Gorges Dam on China’s Yangtze River and the Itaipu Dam (pictured below) on the Brazil-Paraguay border are capable of generating massive amounts of electricity.

Itaipu Dam, hydroelectric power station on the Brazil-Paraguay border

But hydropower can also be very effective at a smaller, more local level, using relatively small rivers. These smaller hydro facilities can bring renewable electricity to remote areas and serve local needs. All they need is an abundance of flowing water to spin their turbines.

In Scotland, two schemes are making use of the country’s plentiful water sources to help the local community, the economy and the surrounding environment.

Turning river waterflow into power

The Lanark and Galloway hydropower schemes are both located in rural Scotland and have been generating power for nearly a century. Despite being more than 95 kilometres apart, they operate in very similar ways.

Lanark (which includes two power stations – Bonnington, with a capacity of 11 MW, and Stonebyres, with a capacity of 6 MW) sits on the River Clyde and began generating power in 1926, making it one of the oldest hydro-electric plants in Great Britain.

Galloway soon followed, coming online in the mid-1930s. It includes a total of six power stations – Glenlee, Tongland, Kendoon, Drumjohn, Earlstoun and Carsfad – eight dams and a network of tunnels and pipelines, giving it a capacity of 109 MW.

Kendoon Power Station Turbine Hall

Kendoon Power Station Turbine Hall

“There was always potential for hydro in the Galloway Hills but there wasn’t demand for 100 MW of power,” explains Stuart Ferns, Operations and Maintenance Manager on the Lanark and Galloway hydro schemes. “However, when the national grid was established in the 1920s it enabled surplus power to be transmitted beyond the local area to Glasgow and further afield.”

Unlike Lanark, which is situated about halfway down the River Clyde, the Galloway scheme spans the entirety of its river system from Loch Doon in the North to Tongland in the south. Both, however, cover a similarly sized catchment area of roughly 1,000 square kilometres.

Where they do differ is in the type of hydropower they generate and the needs they serve for their regions and the wider electricity grid.

Tongland Dam

Tongland Dam

Lanark’s power stations generate electricity through what’s called ‘run-of-the-river’ hydropower, which describes a scheme where there is no dam to stop and store water along the river.

Instead, water from a flowing river is diverted into a power station situated alongside the river. Here the water is used to spin a turbine connected to a generator, before being returned back to the river. Lanark’s two power stations are both positioned alongside naturally occurring waterfalls, which allow them to take advantage of the natural gravitational pressure.

“The Lanark stations run constantly,” says O&M Manager Stuart Ferns. “They will run as long as there is water in the river. And generally, there is always some water available.”

The Galloway system is different. It only generates power when there are peaks in electricity demand. To do this it operates a conventional storage hydro scheme where dams situated along the river are used to create small reservoirs. When demand for electricity peaks – typically between 5pm and 7pm – water is released from these reservoirs and used to spin turbines and generate electricity.

During the day both schemes are monitored and controlled from Glenlee Power Station, halfway down the Galloway route. As night falls, responsibility instead falls to the control room at Cruachan Power Station, more than 200 kilometres away. Around-the-clock monitoring in this way is important as the uncertainty of Scotland’s weather can have effects on the schemes, and on their surrounding environment.

Penstocks leading to Glenlee Power Station

Penstocks leading to Glenlee Power Station

Working with the landscape

Dumfries & Galloway and Lanarkshire are regions defined and dominated by their river systems. As such, extreme weather can lead to occasional natural flooding. The Lanark and Galloway schemes not only have to be diligent in working with extreme weather, but they can actually play a role in monitoring and managing it.

“The Galloway reservoirs help to alleviate flooding because they can store water and help to alleviate flooding downstream,” says Ferns.

Staff at the scheme work closely with local authorities, landowners and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), sharing their weather forecasting and reservoir level data to help them predict which areas will be affected and when roads might need to be closed or even villages evacuated.

The team takes a similar approach to monitoring and protecting the local wildlife. Fish, such as north Atlantic salmon and trout, migrate upstream from the ocean through the Galloway Rivers using manmade fish passes (also known as ‘fish ladders’), which allow fish to bypass dams along the scheme.

Lanark hydro site, River Clyde

Waterfalls on the Clyde at Lanark

Lanark’s natural waterfalls mean it is not a route taken by migratory fish. However, ensuring there is always enough water in the rivers to protect fish and plant life factors into how both schemes operate with the landscape.

Working with the wildlife, weather and surrounding environment of the two rivers have always been a part of running the Lanark and Galloway schemes. Their continued role in the region’s electricity system highlights the relevancy of small-scale hydropower, even as demand for electricity grows.

Capacity Market agreements for existing assets and review of coal generation

Drax's Kendoon Power Station, Galloway Hydro Scheme, Scotland

RNS Number : 6536B

T-3 Auction Provisional Results

Drax confirms that it has provisionally secured agreements to provide a total of 2,562MW of capacity (de-rated 2,333MW) from its existing gas, pumped storage and hydro assets(1). The agreements are for the delivery period October 2022 to September 2023, at a price of £6.44/kW(2) and are worth £15 million in that period. These are in addition to existing agreements which extend to September 2022.

Drax did not accept agreements for its two coal units(3) at Drax Power Station or the small Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) at Blackburn Mill(4) and will now assess options for these assets, alongside discussions with National Grid, Ofgem and the UK Government.

A new-build CCGT at Damhead Creek and four new-build Open Cycle Gas Turbine projects participated in the auction but exited above the clearing price and did not accept agreements.

T-4 Auction

Drax has prequalified its existing assets(5) and options for the development of new gas generation to participate in the T-4 auction, which takes place in March 2020. The auction covers the delivery period from October 2023.

CCGTs at Drax Power Station

Following confirmation that a Judicial Review will now proceed against the Government, regarding the decision to grant planning approval for new CCGTs at Drax Power Station, Drax does not intend to take a Capacity Market agreement in the forthcoming T-4 auction. This project will not participate in future Capacity Market auctions until the outcome of the Judicial Review is known.

Enquiries:

Drax Investor Relations
Mark Strafford
+44 (0) 7730 763 949

Media:

Drax External Communications
Matt Willey
+44 (0) 0771 137 6087

Photo caption: Drax’s Kendoon Power Station, Galloway Hydro Scheme, Scotland

Website: www.drax.com/northamerica

Result of General Meeting

RNS Number : 2803L
Drax Group PLC
No.Brief DescriptionVotes For%Votes Against%Votes TotalVotes Withheld
1. To approve the acquisition of the entire issued share capital of ScottishPower Generation Limited268,580,49485.7544,619,02714.25313,199,52121,841

The resolution was carried. Completion of the acquisition is expected to occur on 31 December 2018.

The number of shares in issue is 407,193,168 (of which 12,867,349 are held in treasury. Treasury shares don’t carry voting rights).

Votes withheld are not a vote in law and have not been counted in the calculation of the votes for and against the resolution, the total votes validly cast or the calculation of the proportion of issued share capital voted.

A copy of the resolution is available for inspection in the Circular, which was previously submitted to the UK Listing Authority’s Document Viewing Facility, via the National Storage Mechanism at www.morningstar.co.uk/uk/NSM.

The Circular and the voting results are also available on the Company’s website at www.drax.com/northamerica.

Enquiries

Drax Investor Relations

Mark Strafford
+44 (0) 1757 612 491
+44 (0) 7730 763 949

Media, Drax External Communications

Matt Willey
+44 (0) 7711 376 087

Website: www.drax.com/northamerica

END

The 8 biggest things in renewable energy

Powering a whole country is a big task. The equipment that make up power stations and electricity systems are measured in tonnes and miles, and pump gigawatts (GW) of electricity around the country. With the world’s electricity increasingly coming from renewables, this big thinking is key to powering long-term change.

From taller wind turbines to bigger batteries, these are the massive structures breaking energy records.

Germany’s giant wind turbine and the plan to beat it

As wind power becomes ever more prevalent, one of the key questions that needs answering is how to get more out of it. One way is to build taller turbines and longer blades. Putting turbines higher into the air sets them into stronger wind flows, while longer blades increase their generating capacity.

The world’s tallest wind turbines are currently in Gaildorf, Germany and stand at 178 metres with the blades tips reaching 246.5 metres. Built by Max Bögl Wind AG, the onshore turbines house a 3.4 megawatt (MW) generator that can produce around 10.5 gigawatt hours (GWh) per year.

However, turbines continue to grow and GE has announced plans for the Haliade-X turbine, which will ship in 2021. At 259 metres in total the offshore turbine is almost double the height of the London Eye and will spin 106 metre blades, generating 67 GWh per year.

China’s ‘Great Wall of Solar’

China has pumped substantial investment into solar power, including the world’s biggest solar plant in electricity generation and sheer size. Dubbed the ‘Great Wall of Solar’, the Tengger Desert Solar Park has a capacity of more than 1.5 GW and covers 43 km2 of desert.

The next largest, by comparison, is India’s Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park, which covers just 24 km2 and generates 1 GW. However, rampant investment by the country means there are several projects in the pipeline that will break the 2 GW mark and will set new records for solar power plants.

Morocco takes solar to new heights

Concentrated solar power (CSP) takes the technology skywards by using thousands of mirrors, known as heliostats, and focusing the sun’s rays towards a central tower. This heats up molten salt within the tower, which is then combined with water to create steam and power a turbine – like in a thermal power plant.

Morocco’s Noor Ouarzazate facility (pictured in the main photo of this article) is home to the world’s tallest CSP towers. At 250 metres tall, 7,400 heliostats beam the sunlight at each tower, which have a capacity of 150 MW and can store molten salt for 7.5 hours. Its record will soon be matched by Israel’s 121 MW Ashalim Solar Thermal Power Station when it begins operating this year.

However, never one to be outdone when it comes to tall structures, Dubai plans to build a 260 metre CSP tower in 2020 as part of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, which at 700 MW will be the world’s largest single-site CSP facility.

Three Gorges Dam

China’s monster mountain dam

The Three Gorges Dam on China’s Yangtza river might be the world’s most powerful hydropower dam with its massive 22.5 GW capacity, but a different Chinese dam holds the title of the world’s tallest.

Jinping-I Hydropower Station is a 305-metre-tall arch dam on the Yalong River. It sits on the Jinping Bend where the river wraps around the entire Jinping mountain range. The project began in 2005 and was completed with the commissioning of a sixth and final generator in 2014, which brought its total capacity to 3.6 GW.

Itaipu Dam and hydropower station

Brazil and Paraguay’s river arrangement

While it may be tall, at 568 metres-long, Jinping-I is far from the longest. That mantle belongs to the 7,919 metre-long Itaipu Dam and hydropower station that straddles Brazil and Paraguay and has an installed capacity of 14 GW.

The power station is home to 20, 700 MW generators, however, as Brazil’s electricity system runs at 60Hz and Paraguay’s at 50Hz, 10 of the generators run at each frequency.

Biomass domes that could hide the Albert Hall

Using a relatively new material, such as compressed wood pellets as a renewable alternative to coal in large thermal power stations creates new challenges. Biomass ‘ecostore’ domes help tackle storage problems by keeping the materials dry and maintaining the right temperatures and conditions.

Unlike cylindrical, concrete silos, domes also offer greater resistance to hurricanes and extreme weather. This is important in areas such as Louisiana where this low carbon fuel  is stored at the Drax Biomass port facility in 35.7 metre high, 61.6 metre diameter domes before it is shipped to Drax Power Station.

The power station itself is home to four of the world’s largest biomass domes. Each is 50.3 metres high and 63 metres in diameter – enough to hold the Albert Hall, or in Drax’s case 71,000 tonnes of biomass.

South Korean coastline takes the most from the tides

Beginning operation 1966, the Rance Tidal Power Station, in France was the first and largest facility of its kind for 45 years. The power station made use of the 750 metre-long Rance Barrage on France’s northern coast with a 330-metre-long section of it generating electricity through 24, 10 MW turbines.

It was overtaken, however, in 2011 with the opening of the Sihwa Lake Tidal Power Station in South Korea. The facility generates power along a 400-metre section of the 12.7 km Sihwa Lake tidal barrage and generates a maximum of 254 MW through ten 25.4 MW submerged turbines.

The battle to beat Tesla’s giant battery

South Australia has become a battlefield in the race to build the world’s biggest grid scale storage solution. Tesla constructed a 10,000 m2, football pitch-sized 100 MW lithium-ion battery outside of Adelaide at the end of 2017 which is connected to a wind power plant and can independently supply electricity to 30,000 homes for an hour.

However, rival billionaire to Tesla’s Elon Musk, Sanjeev Gupta plans to take on the storage facility with a 140 MW battery to support a new solar-powered steelworks, also in South Australia.

The excitement around battery technology’s potential means the title of world’s biggest will likely swap hands plenty more times over the next decade. This contest won’t just be confined to batteries. As countries increasingly move away from fossil fuels, bigger, wider and taller renewable structures will be needed to power the world. These are the world’s largest renewable structures today, but they probably won’t stay in those positions for long.