back to article Inside Electric Mountain: Britain's biggest rechargeable battery

From the outside, Elidir Mountain looks like an old industrial site that has returned to nature. The slopes facing the Llyn Peris reservoir have been hacked into terraces by slate quarrying – this was once the second-biggest quarry in the world, with 3,000 workers – but they are now peaceful. Only a few buildings at ground …

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      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Battery or capacitor

        I disagree. I think most elReg readers understand the difference between a battery and a capacitor, and many will argue the toss about which is more valid in this case.

        For what it's worth, I think the way this system delivers it's power is more like that of a capacitor than a conventional battery.

        1. VinceH Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Battery or capacitor

          " I think most elReg readers understand the difference between a battery and a capacitor, and many will argue the toss about which is more valid in this case."

          I don't. That's hardware. I use hardware, but I don't pretend to understand it - or necessarily know the right term for it.

          I'll get my wind protection skin.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Battery or capacitor

        First, stop putting capacitor in quotes.

        Secondly, not everything on the internet should be dumbed down. If you see a word you don't understand, it's never been easier in human history to look it up.

        https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacitor

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Battery or capacitor

          Condenser you young whippersnapper!

        2. Francis Boyle Silver badge

          Re: Battery or capacitor

          "First, stop putting capacitor in quotes."

          Please continue to put 'capacitor' in quotes. Some of us appreciate accurate use of language.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Tom_

        Re: Battery or capacitor

        "What word does the man in the street understand?"

        If we shy away from using words because we fear people won't understand them we'll just reduce the number of words that people do understand. Worse than that, we'll reduce the number of ideas that people can hope to understand. Let's keep using the right words for the job and work on helping people to comprehend them.

        1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          Re: Battery or capacitor

          "If we shy away from using words because we fear people won't understand them we'll just reduce the number of words that people do understand."

          And the result would be...Upgoer Five!

          xkcd.com/1133/

          1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

            Re: Thing explainer

            Hmm... yes and no. Randall uses a relatively small set of simple words - but he doesn't dumb down whatever he is explaining. Which is not as easy to pull off as it seems.

        2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

          Re: "What word does the man in the street understand?"

          "If we shy away from using words because we fear people won't understand them we'll just reduce the number of words that people do understand. Worse than that, we'll reduce the number of ideas that people can hope to understand. Let's keep using the right words for the job and work on helping people to comprehend them."

          Exactly. If you can spare the time, re-read 1984. IMO that's the main point Orwell wanted to make. Changing the language can change the ability to think. In 1984 the party works towards the point where no-one is able to say or even think anything dissenting from the party line - because there are no words to do so. As horrible as it is, the mass surveillance is trivial in comparison.

          1. Schlimnitz

            Re: "What word does the man in the street understand?"

            Scientology seems a bit like this to me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Great article

      Because it's pedant's Monday I'll go for accumulator. A capacitor stores charge (in the dielectric). A battery is electro-chemical (1).

      1 Substituting wikipedia for intelligence since 2010.

    2. Steven Jones

      Re: Great article

      It is absolutely nothing like a capacitor in the way it works. Neither, for that matter, is it anything like a battery either. The common term for all these storage systems, whether it's flywheel, batteries, compressed air, liquefied air etc. is grid energy storage system. Such systems are (world-wide) responsible for the vast majority of temporary storage capacity (albeit distributed storage systems in the form of electric vehicles could make a big dent in that lead).

      Impressive as this facility is in engineering terms, it's positively Victorian in concept (the method dates from the 1890s). Something rather more compact and not limited by local terrain is going to be needed as we increasingly rely on intermittent power sources.

      1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Great article

        > It is absolutely nothing like a capacitor in the way it works.

        If you look at the equations, you'll see the _exact_ equivalence. Identify voltage with pressure, charge with water volume, and current with, well, current. Then work from there. I used this to teach people who could not for their life understand basic concepts regarding electricity. Fun project: find more systems governed by the exact same equations.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Great article

          Given that it's in Wales, it's probably a Di Electric.

          1. David 132 Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Great article

            Excellent pun Sir, have an upvote. Minor pedantry: I believe Dai Electric would be the correct Welsh spelling.

            I recall my Dad taking me to Dinorwig many years ago when I was just a wee lad. Can't remember too much of it as time has clouded my memory, but I do recall that it was cold, wet (duh, it's North Wales) and yet very impressive.

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

          3. Scott 53

            Re: Great article

            Dai Electric, surely?

        2. itzman

          Re: Great article

          Well no, its far more like a battery, since its voltage output is constant, and its the current draw that varies, whereas a capacitor displays a falling voltage as it discharges.

          1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: Great article

            @itzman - "a capacitor displays a falling voltage as it discharges"

            And a reservoir displays a falling water level (gravitational potential energy) as it discharges.

            Sure, the grid voltage stays pretty constant, but it's a regulated output, and see what happens if you let the water level fall to half the height between the upper and lower reservoir (i.e., the upper reservoir and part of the feed pipe is dry)...

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: governed by the exact same equations.

          What happens to the voltage across the terminals of a capacitor as it charges and discharges?

          What happens to the grid voltage across the terminals of Dinorwig as it charges and discharges?

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: What happens to the grid voltage across the terminals of Dinorwig as it charges and discharges

            Well, seeing as though it produces AC... and neither rechargeable batteries nor capacitors do... it's more like a hydro-electric pumped-storage/generator than anything else.

          2. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: governed by the exact same equations.

            What happens to the level of the Marchlyn Mawr reservoir when power is drawn from the system?

            The reservoir is the capacitor; the generators are the voltage regulators.

      2. itzman

        Re: Great article

        Correction:

        Something rather more compact and not limited by local terrain would be be needed if we had to increasingly rely on intermittent power sources.

        However since no such technology exists, nor even the possibility of it, and we dont have to rely on intermittent power sources, we will continue to rely on non intermittent power sources.

        PS the stated efficiency of 76% is as good as or better than any other storage facility of similar capacity, and its not Victorian technology. Its Edwardian (Heath) technology IIRC.

        1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

          Re: Great article

          ts not Victorian technology. Its Edwardian (Heath) technology IIRC.

          I thought Ted Heath was a lawyer. Or Big Band leader, take your pick.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Great article

            It's an anagram of The Death.

            1. Leeroy Bronze badge

              Re: Great article

              Great Scott, how many Gigawatts ?

              Also great article, we need a facility to up / down vote the article the same way as comments ! This would definitely get an up vote from me.

              1. Vic

                Re: Great article

                Great Scott, how many Gigawatts ?

                I notice that the article doesn't say how long it can maintain that sort of output...

                we need a facility to up / down vote the article the same way as comments

                We used to have exactly that. It was removed. I suspect certain authors got more downvotes than they liked...

                Vic.

                1. Mark 85 Silver badge

                  @Vic -- Re: Great article

                  Great Scott, how many Gigawatts ?

                  I notice that the article doesn't say how long it can maintain that sort of output...

                  It says it could power Wales for 5-1/2 hours. But doesn't tell us if that's max output or nominal.

                  1. Dwarf Silver badge

                    Re: @Vic -- Great article

                    The answer is that "it depends". There are multiple turbines in there so it depends how many they spin up as to how long the water lasts. Apparently there is always one turbine undergoing maintenance too.

                    Its re-charge method of reversing the turbine to make them pumps is a good party trick - powered by nuclear generated electricity, which is cheap at night due to low demand.

                    I'll +1 to it being a really good day out, particularly if they open a valve when you are in the water inlet room. One odd recollection I have is that whilst wandering along some of the upper walkways with dripping water and strange machinery below does make it feel a bit like Doom IRL.

                  2. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
                    Boffin

                    Re: @Vic -- Great article

                    "it could power Wales for 5-1/2 hours"

                    I propose a new Reg Standard derrived unit, defined as "The energy required to power a country the size of Wales (1Wa) for 5.5 hours". Named Llyn Peris, perhaps?

                    1. TRT Silver badge

                      Re: @Vic -- Great article

                      Lasts longer than my iPhone battery anyway.

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  5 hours generation at maximum output

                  And 7 hours to refill

                  source: the owners/operators, at

                  http://www.fhc.co.uk/dinorwig.htm

                  And also according to Dave the guide, when I was there a couple of weeks ago.

                  I don't think I've ever been more impressed (not just by Dave).

                3. Adam 1 Silver badge

                  Re: Great article

                  > I notice that the article doesn't say how long it can maintain that sort of output

                  Being in Wales, I suspect that there is a not insubstantial free top up of the top reservoir every other day.

                4. Andydaws

                  Re: Great article

                  1.8 GW (roughly), for about 6 hours

    3. Uffish

      Re: Battery/capacitor

      Given that there are two distinct energy levels (upper lake and lower lake) I favour the battery analogy. (A three-phase battery that is).

    4. KitD

      Re: Great article

      A capacitor driven by flowing water = a flux capacitor, right?

      And 1.2 jiggawatts in 12 seconds? I assume that can only be achieved by at flow rate of EXACTLY 88 mph,no?

    5. joshimitsu

      Re: Great article

      There was a bit of a debate regarding this definition - I meant it had the function of a capacitor in terms of smoothing out the balance between supply and demand.

  1. jca111

    It's not a battery

    A battery is electro-chemical.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: It's not a battery

      'Battery' comes from the Latin 'the act of beating', and so organised groups of artillery became known as batteries. This usage was extended to other arrays of similar things, so a group of power cells became known as a battery. In fact today we often use 'battery' for mere single cells, as 'AA' often are - by contrast, square 9V 'PP3's are batteries of lower voltage cells. This power station is a battery of valves and turbines.

      And should you be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time, it would certainly batter you, like an egg in a food blender!

  2. Ironclad

    Viewing habits

    I wonder if they still get the same kind of peaks these days with everyone's PVRs skipping the ads or people watching on-demand?

    I guess there's always major sporting events and stuff like Eurovision (personally I'd need alcohol rather than tea to sit through Eurovision).

    1. FrogsAndChips Bronze badge

      Re: Viewing habits

      I don't think it has changed much. Viewing times are linked to the family/work schedule more than anything else and I haven't noticed any significant evolution in the last decade. Personally it's a 2-3 hour window between "back from work" and "go to bed", a little more on weekends.

      What you've listed has given people more control over what to watch, not when to watch it.

      1. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: Viewing habits

        "I don't think it has changed much...

        What you've listed has given people more control over what to watch, not when to watch it."

        But the point is that when everyone's watching isn't important, it's when they stop watching and turn the kettle on. Streaming services might not change the time people have available to watch TV, but they do mean that people are free to pause and make a cuppa or go to the toilet at any time they like rather than having the entire country perfectly synchronised by advert breaks. It's the spike that is important here, not the total usage, and the more popular streaming gets the less of a spike there's likely to be.

        1. FrogsAndChips Bronze badge
          Pint

          Re: Viewing habits

          I see, I'd missed that part of the article and hadn't realized how sensitive the grid was to ad-break synchronized kettle usage!

          Pint, because there's no kettle icon.

          1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

            Re: Viewing habits

            "hadn't realized how sensitive the grid was to ad-break synchronized kettle usage!"

            Not just that - millions of toilets flushing also pushes up demand for electricity for water supply pumping.

          2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

            Re: Viewing habits

            It's also the fact that the UK loves using water to boil kettles. There's even hilarious reg writers who, when faced with a gas supply and shoddy electric supply refuse to boil a kettle on gas or make popcorn on a stovetop instead of a microwave.

            I'd rather my slightly slower boiling gas kettle coming in at 1/3rd the cost of boiling it in the 'leccy kettle. Plus we have hard water around here, so cleaning out the stovetop one is easy, de-caking an element is tricky, usually ending up with the choice of white bits of vinegar flavor in your tea.

            Pumped storage and flywheel generators are both really cool, existing load balancing/energy storage solutions, and perfect examples of why "invention xyz will revolutionise power supply/distribution" are often bollocks. Real world engineering is tough, and you can't wave away the laws of thermodynamics because they don't suit your political agenda.

            I'm also a huge fan of using the existing water engineering that was used to run mills etc to be used for running micro hydro, since many of the large scale costs/works are already done, and most of the environmental impact has also already occurred.

            1. Vic

              Re: Viewing habits

              the UK loves using water to boil kettles

              Water's usually a bit of a feature in kettles...

              Vic.

          3. This post has been deleted by its author

          4. fearnothing

            Re: Viewing habits

            Indeed, it was enough of a thing that I remember when I was a kid often seeing the lights dim a bit in the evenings - it didn't mean a great deal to me at the time because we didn't have TV, but I learned later that it was due to this exact phenomenon. It gradually disappeared from my consciousness as I grew up, probably because the country's infrastructure was being modernised and techniques improved.

        2. Richard 81

          Re: Viewing habits

          Sadly EastEnders etc. are still polluting the minds of tens of millions of viewers. Once the credits role, on goes the kettle for a mug of Tetley.

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