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 …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very worthwhile tour that one. Some very impressive engineering!

    Photos never give the scale justice!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I have my summer house at a similar facility

      My summer house in Eastern Europe is at a similar facility built at about the same time. Bigger too. In fact big enough to be one of the primary elements in balancing the grid so you do not burn expensive gas to compensate for spikes.

      There is a different way of looking at the Electric Mountain - it is a sad testament of what we could achieve if it was not for the misconceived NIMBY and "historical preservation" attitude. Historically, the Lake District in its current form was created in the 18th and 19th century to provide the industry in the North of England with energy and water for all the metal works. It is not a natural feature (at least most of it).

      It could and should have been converted into one giant hydro-accumulation facility - a giant Electric Mountain. If it did, the UK would have balanced the grid without resorting to any gas burning. This would have fit its original purpose too. However, anyone daring to harbor such thoughts is likely to see a lynch mob carrying National Trust membership cards within 15 minutes after speaking it out in public.

      1. Rob Daglish

        Re: I have my summer house at a similar facility

        AC, I'll have two of whatever you're smoking. I think

        "Historically, the Lake District in its current form was created in the 18th and 19th century"

        is a slight overstatement - yes, Thirlmere, Haweswater and Simpson ground were for Manchester, Kentmere was for mills in Kendal, and there are two other reservoirs, but there are over 60 bodies of water that were nothing to do with mankind - or did the 18th/19th century mill owners send steam-punk robots back in time to use glaciers to carve out the lake district for them?

      2. Scorchio!!

        Re: I have my summer house at a similar facility

        "My summer house in Eastern Europe is[...]"

        I fooz to 'spond to this obvus troool.

      3. RegGuy1

        Re: I have my summer house at a similar facility

        Good point. And it always rains there too -- even when it doesn't rain anywhere else!

        Upvote from me.

        (Good luck to all the downvoters who want to preserve the country in aspic. We will become even more of a has-been than we are now.)

      4. John Hughes

        Re: I have my summer house at a similar facility

        My summer house in Eastern Europe is at a similar facility built at about the same time. Bigger too.

        Where? The Wikipedia page for pumped storage only gives 7 bigger installations than Dinorwig, in France, China, Japan and the US.

        1. Lars Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: I have my summer house at a similar facility

          @ John Hughes

          I was wondering about it too.

          From:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pumped-storage_hydroelectric_power_stations

          Perhaps this in Ukraine, started long ago.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dniester_Pumped_Storage_Power_Station

          "While only 3 are currently operational, the power station will contain 7 324 MW reversible Francis turbine generators. Its installed capacity will be 2,268 MW when generating and during pumping". (In 2017).

          And not that surprisingly "The first use of pumped storage was in the 1890s in Italy and Switzerland." you need a mountain after all.

    2. lsces

      And it's a useful 'backup' for a wet day on a holiday in that corner of Wales. did it a few years back on an early season break ... which was somewhat damp :)

      1. TRT Silver badge

        A wet day in Wales...

        you're better off holding a trip to Harlech or Aberystwyth beach in reserve just in case you get a dry day.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: A wet day in Wales...

          just in case you get a dry day.

          Dry day's in Blaenau Ffestiniog are something to celebrate...

    3. Gary Heard

      Photos never give the scale justice!

      I was lucky enough to go to Electric Mountain in a work related capacity. I still have a hand drawn diagram of the way it works and a (very) professional document detailing what the generators are capable of. The turbine hall sports 2 X 200T overhead cranes that have to be used in tandem to remove a turbine (weighing 350T).

      It is also one of the grids "Black Start" power stations, used to restore the grid if there is a regional or national blackout. The generation of the AC phase (50Hz) is very precise as other stations coming on need to be "pulled" into phase by the reference station.

      Fantastic bit of kit and amazing engineering

    4. AlbertH
      Happy

      An Amazing Childhood Experience

      I remember being taken to see that station during its construction. My Father's friend was one of the Project Engineers, so he was able to show us around. I still remember being awestruck at the sheer size of the artificial cavern that they had created!

      Truly amazing!

    5. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Photos never give the scale justice!

      Neither do they give any idea of the sound and vibration changes when those inlet valves open...

      Definitely worth a visit, plus the cafe at the visitor centre (where you start and end your tour) is reasonable.

    6. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      I went there as a kid (my dad's a sparky so he liked going of tours of various power stations, from hydro to nuke and everything in-between) and the generating hall is just something else. It just looks on a scale that seems outrageously wrong, that something so massive could be hidden underground.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "It just looks on a scale that seems outrageously wrong, that something so massive could be hidden underground."

        I just couldn't help humming Hall of the Mountain King while in there :-)

        Also, anyone planning a visit, if you go too early or late in the season and want to ride the train up Snowdon, you might not get all the way. The snow might still be blocking the tracks to the terminus well after what we lesser folks might think of as a beautiful warm late spring day.

    7. bazza Silver badge

      Worrying signs

      I went here many, many years ago, a very good tour, but at the time none of the turbines were running.

      I went a couple of years ago, same very good tour, but now one of the turbines was actually running before our very eyes.

      Curious, I asked why. It wasn't FA cup half time or anything, so why was it running?

      The answer was quite worrying. We're so short of generating capacity that the grid will even buy Electric Mountain's very expensive electricity on a regular basis during normal daylight hours to add a little more to the grid. Of course they can't run all the turbines continuously (hence just one running), and the water still has to be pumped back up again at night.

      But no longer is the place purely a way of meeting peek demand. It's meeting normal demand conditions too.

      We're paying a huge price in this country (bills, economic output) in chasing such a large proportion of renewables. No one wants to build and run a trusty coal / gas / oil plant because it's hard to make money out of it given that the renewables get their electricity bought first (or worse, paid to not operate at all). No one is paying the coal / gas / oil guys enough money to be there for us on standby for that cold, damp, cloudy and windless day in the middle of winter.

      1. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: Worrying signs

        Pumped storage is ideal for renewable energy. When the wind blows you use the power from wind turbines to pump the water back up. That is why Scotland is enlarging our pumped storage and retroftting hydro systems with pumped storage to handle the increase in our wind capacity (provided enough power for 75% of domestic power recently). When wave and tidal comes on stream to augment wind there will be base level generating capacity there that will generate power even when the wind is not blowing. The tides are also very predictable. The Pentland Firth between the Scottish mainland and Orkney is having tidal turbines installed. The Atlantic flows into the North Sea there, massive amounts of water move regular as clockwork.

        Scotland has LOTS of tidal races, large and small. Look at a sailing guide some time, it gives tidal speeds for every passage. Necessary if you are kayaking about, no point trying to kayak between two islands if the water is flowing faster than you can paddle. Time your trip so the tide is flowing the other way or haul out and have elevenses while you wait for the tide to change. Turbines in even a significant fraction of such places could generate serious amounts of reliable power.

        Though we might leave the Gulf of Corryvreckan as it is ;-)

  2. BurnT'offering

    Built by the government

    Then sold off. Sigh ...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    While travelling I met a Californian who had discovered the "Amazing electric fast water boiling jug!!!" for the first time in his life.

    Seems he'd never seen a real kettle before because:

    240v x 13 amp ~ 3kW

    110v x 15 amp ~ 1.6kW

    While 3kW is more than enough to boil a litre of water during a commercial break, 1.6kW simply isn't. Gotta feel sorry for the yanks sometimes.

    1. GreggS

      Yeah but don't feel that sorry for them - they have far more commercial breaks in their shows than we do (even Sky 1).

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      >3kW is more than enough to boil a litre of water during a commercial break

      Given the length of commercial breaks on the other side of the pond (or, indeed, away from the "public service" channels on this side of the pond), 1.6kW is almost enough for a hot bath...

    3. ArrZarr Silver badge

      They solved the problem by having longer breaks. Still feel sorry for them, though.

    4. Spudley

      > While 3kW is more than enough to boil a litre of water during a commercial break, 1.6kW simply isn't.

      Surely even 1.6kW would be enough given how long ad breaks are on American TV.

    5. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

      The americans use 110v @ 20 amp in kitchens so that's 2.2kW. Still not brilliant, and not all households have it, and if they don't, upgrading means upgrading the wiring to cope. So I assume that all kettles are crap.

      1. John 104

        RE: Kettles

        True, we have 110 at 15 or 20 amps. However, not all of us are bound to using electric heat for cooking. Barf! I've had it and it sucks ass. Impossible to regulate with any accuracy. We have natural gas at my home. Not sure about BTU conversion on what we have vs electric, but it still takes a bit to boil in a closed kettle. Still, we must be a patient lot, because it isn't a big deal to just turn on the stove and then go back to watching a movie or something else until the whistle blows. Then we - gasp! - get up and fill our cups.

        Our family is not typical Americana though. We don't watch much broadcast TV, and even then, it is mainly a Winter activity. Summer evenings are very long in the North West so outdoor activities rule.

      2. RJChurchill

        It's not just Yanks, Canadians have very similar standards and the same power grid system. 20 amp circuits are a new standard and only for kitchens, Most legacy houses have 15 amp breakers in the kitchen and will for some time. It seems catering to the lowest common denominator means there will be few or no kettles that draw more than 13-15 amps at 110 volts. Pity.

        1. Orv Silver badge

          Yup. A 20A 120V plug has the neutral prong rotated 90 degrees to prevent it being plugged into a 15A outlet. 20A circuits usually get outlets with a T-shaped neutral slot to accommodate both plugs. So far I've only seen 20A plugs on server rack PDUs and some especially large wall A/C units.

          If you think about it, being able to deliver 240 volts for large appliances, while still having no point in the system be more than 120 volts above ground, is actually pretty clever. It has the effect of reducing the shock hazard, even though it wasn't originally planned with that in mind.

      3. quartzie

        Us kettles

        The breakers might go up to 20A, but finding a kettle over 1600W is a miracle.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      TiVo FTW

      I never realized just how bad the commercial breaks had gotten until I switched to a TiVo last year. They have a lovely "jump 30 seconds" button when you're watching a recorded show, so as soon as the commercial starts it's usually at least 8 presses, and sometimes10, to skip the commercial break.

      Movies are the absolute worst - sometimes it's 11 or 12 jumps - yes, really, six minutes breaks, and they do this at least three or four times per hour. It's quite a horrible viewing experience, routinely turning a two hour movie into three hours of interrupted agony.

      The latest TiVo masterpiece is "skip mode", where they've already determined where the breaks are and one press of the "D" key gets you back to the show. Not available on all shows, but for the ones where it is, the breaks are even less intrusive.

      I keep wondering where the absolute pain point is for watchers - seven minute breaks, eight minutes, more? I would have though anything over two or three minutes would have caused immediate switching, but clearly not. All I know is that I completely stopped watching "live" TV, other than sports, since the TiVo arrived.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: TiVo FTW

        And for the rest of us, are TV dongles, and Openshot....

      2. DougS Silver badge

        Some breaks are even longer than that

        I recently recorded a couple movies on BET, and there were a few breaks that required, I shit you not, 22 presses of the 30 second skip to get by. I can't fathom anyone sitting through an entire movie if they didn't have a DVR, you could make a quick run to the grocery store in that amount of time!

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: TiVo FTW

        Including trailers it's up to 10 mins an hour now - more or less - so they're wasting half an hour of your time if you watch 3 hours a night. If you multiply that up, even at minimum wage, that's well over £1300 per year that they owe you - and of course, you pay for the making and screening of the adverts as well (much more than the licence fee!!). And there are some on here who still want toabolish the BBC!!!

      4. Vincent Ballard
        Flame

        Re: TiVo FTW

        On Spanish TV they regularly make the last ad break in a feature film last 20 minutes, and come just 10 minutes before the credits.

      5. paulf Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: TiVo FTW

        Our home alternative is TV capture cards in a system running Mythbuntu. Myth TV packaged up with Ubuntu. It isn't flawless but is perfectly capable and seems to run on an old 3GHz Athlon with 8GB of RAM. That comes with 30s skip forward which makes skipping adverts easier. It can also flag adverts and, optionally, auto skip them but this can be a bit hit and miss so best to manually skip the time it thinks is an ad break when the ads start.

        Added bonus - TV shows can be kept as it simply saves the MPEG data to the HDD.

    7. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

      "Gotta feel sorry for the yanks sometimes."

      Most of us prefer coffee anyway.

      ...though the quality varies. My daughter, for example, drinks the instant stuff. Can't stand it, myself. Still, it uses hot water, so would benefit from your faster kettles.

      Me, I drink tea, so I'm left standing and waiting. Guess I need to move to England so I can get a faster cuppa. During commercial breaks that I don't get because I don't watch TV. ...And that's where it all falls apart. :)

      1. Fibbles

        For reasons unknown American instant coffee tastes like soap.

        1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

          If you think that American Coffee is bad

          Just try eating the rubber thay call 'Cheese'.

          and just about anything you buy in a Supermarket. Processed to oblivion and tastless to boot.

        2. John H Woods Silver badge

          "For reasons unknown American instant coffee tastes like soap." --- Fibbles

          They like that taste, that's why they eat Hershey bars.

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Get a teapot for use on the stove then. We have one and it's great. Boiling water in about 2 minutes.

    8. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: "Electric Boiling Jug"

      Got one -- and I'm a Californian.

      One of the US's little secrets is that the domestic electricity supply is actually 230 volts. Its two phase, split around ground (earth), hence the 110v outlets you see everywhere. The higher voltage appears in the kitchen to power the range (cooker) so there's many a 'merkan of foreign origin who has a 220 volt outlet in the kitchen (or, in our case, one that leads to a couple of 13 amp sockets -- the Belkins used over here are beyond primitive). We use one for the kettle, another for the toaster.

      The 1.6kW needs to be watched carefully. Big Sister (aka the EU) is coming for your high wattage appliances because they're 'inefficient' (although how a kettle could be inefficient escapes me....).

    9. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I have two solutions:

      1) I don't watch much TV, so I usually have no limitations on how long I need to boil a pot.

      2) I don't try to boil the ocean, or even a full liter. I boil a cup, or maybe two if my wife wants one too.

      It's true, we do have ignoramuses who haven't ever seen an electric kettle. FWIW, if I really wanted a 240v kettle, I could have a 240v outlet installed. Now queue the chorus of Limey ignoramuses that don't realize we actually have 240v to our houses. Yes, it really is true, although it's usually only used for clothes dryers, water heaters, and cooking; not for tea kettles and televisions.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: I have two solutions:

        "Now queue the chorus of Limey ignoramuses"

        Oh, you were doing so well and then you spoiled it with queue :-(

        I still upvoted you though.

        1. ShadowDragon8685

          Re: I have two solutions:

          It's not TECHNICALLY incorrect.

          I mean, he obviously meant "cue," but you could still assemble the chorus into a queue.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I have two solutions:

          >> "Now queue the chorus of Limey ignoramuses"

          > Oh, you were doing so well and then you spoiled it with queue :-(

          > I still upvoted you though.

          I do know this. But I've been touch typing for so long my fingers type the words as I think them without a lot conscious effort. E.g. often I think 'their' but they type 'there'.

          Usually I catch it, but not this time. Thanks for the up vote.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

    10. Borg.King

      220V in US is possible

      Most houses in the US are connected to two 110V supplies that are 180° out of phase. If you know a competent electrician you can wire across the two phases and get 220V.

      I live in the U.S. and my tumble dryer and electric cooker use this two phase 220v supply as standard, as does my hot tub. They're on dedicated circuits though as they each can draw up to 50A.

      With an isolating transformer of capable rating, you can create a properly grounded 220V supply to an outlet in the kitchen, and then run a 3kW or similar european kettle. You would just have to have a very knowledgeable electrical inspector to sign off on that wiring.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 220V in US is possible

        > Most houses in the US are connected to two 110V supplies that are 180° out of phase. If you

        > know a competent electrician you can wire across the two phases and get 220V.

        *All* houses in the US are connected with a *single* 240v supply. It's split phase using a transformer on the pole, two hot, one ground (earth). Hopefully all the licensed, pro electricians are competent. They should all be able to wire a basic 240v outlet.

        > With an isolating transformer of capable rating, you can create a properly grounded 220V

        > supply to an outlet in the kitchen, and then run a 3kW or similar european kettle. You would

        > just have to have a very knowledgeable electrical inspector to sign off on that wiring.

        You don't need a transformer, you just need to understand electricity basics to wire a simple 240v outlet. Any building inspector that signs off on something using a transformer should be fired for being incompetent.

        I rest my case about Limey ignoramuses. Queued, cued, or kewed, the chorus begins.

    11. Nifty

      If we stay in the EU the new low power kettle regulations will be unshelved so we can join our American cousins on slow kettles. The Eurocrats have determined that a fast kettle is an inefficient one. A switch to beer would solve the issue I suppose.

  4. joshimitsu

    Great article

    I would say the facility is more like a capacitor than a battery though.

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      Battery or capacitor

      What word does the man in the street understand ? To most 'capacitor' means nothing, but he well understands what a rechargeable battery is all about.

      Not everyone here is techie enough to understand 'capacitor'.

      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

            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

          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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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

    4. 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).

    5. 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?

    6. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

    2. itzman

      Re: 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?

      http://gridwatch.templar.co.uk

    3. Paul Woodhouse

      Re: Viewing habits

      the light in the fridge going on when the door opens to get more cold bottles of beer does it through Eurovision ...

    4. fishman

      Re: Viewing habits

      The peaks during breaks reminds me of the movie "Flushed Away", where the peak event was everyone flushing the loo at halftime for a football game.

    5. Peter Ford

      Re: Viewing habits

      No adverts in Eurovision, so no tea breaks. That might just be in the UK on BBC: some of the fillers they show when other networks are putting in their adverts make you pine for a Waitrose Christmas advert.

      Anyway, no alcohol before song nine...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    had a look around there back in 1990 as part of our college (BTEC Engineering) piss up trip around Wales, it was disguised as an educational trip. We did some really good field trips.

    Goonhilly private tour

    Devonport Dockyard, lecturer was ex chief engineer on aircraft carriers

    Plessy Semiconductors

    Geothermal Hot rocks project

    Some blokes (An ex navy mate of our lecturer) house up on Dartmoor who powered his house with his own hydroelectric system.

    And the best one. St Austell Brewery tour (the brewery was just across the road from the college) Free bar tasting session after but the 1h college bus trip home wasn't quite as much fun!

    1. Mike Richards Silver badge

      It's like another age - Goonhilly - gone, Devonport - still there but much smaller, the hot rocks at Rosemanowes - gone (well at least the rocks are still there). I had to check that Plessy was still with us - apparently so.

      But the brewery is still there.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        the Plessy site has gone through several owners since back in the day. It might be called Plessy now but its nothing to do with the old Plessy (apart from being run by ex-original Plessy people) It now makes LED lighting, ad its a leader in it.

        The hot rocks was a good trip, very much before its time. Goonhilly was really cool had a special behind the scenes tour with an old BT lag

        There's been a really good documentary about Devonport dockyard on Quest (I think) its still bleedy massive!

        And as for the brewery, well that's still there but the college has moved its no longer at Palace Rd I think its over at John Key house the old EEC HQ. The brewery was great the smell of it wafting over campus of a morning.

      2. SA_Mathieson

        The good news is that Goonhilly isn't gone, although BT tried. It's not open to the public at the moment unfortunately, but The Register got me in for an earlier Geek's Guide: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/11/25/geeks_guide_goonhilly/.

        1. David 132 Silver badge

          The good news is that Goonhilly isn't gone, although BT tried. It's not open to the public at the moment unfortunately,

          Four years or so ago, my wife and I took a Segway tour around a (quite small) part of the Goonhilly campus; didn't get to see the infrastructure stuff up close, unfortunately.

          If you're ever in the area, I can highly recommend the nearby Roskilly's Ice-Cream factory and working farm. Well worth a visit.

    2. Lusty Silver badge

      "piss up trip around Wales"

      Must have been good, you managed to tour the West-country on a welsh piss up!

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        To be fair, the Cornish are more Welsh than English.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Ahhhh well the Welsh piss up was an end of year effort. The other trips were spread over a 2 week period during the term. Normally you would do 2 weeks work experience but we all agreed after the first year that it was a waste of time (2 weeks working in a clay pit didn't impress me too much) so we did lots of field trips instead

    3. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

      One more:

      Morgan Cars factory tour (Malvern)

      Did that one year and Mrs Marmite had the inspiration to treat me to a weekends away with hire of a Morgan, for a major birthday. Bless her.

  8. RockBurner

    go from stand-by to 1.32 gigawatts in 12 seconds eh...

    so - all we need to do now is get it up to 88 miles per hour?

    1. Sir Alien

      Re: go from stand-by to 1.32 gigawatts in 12 seconds eh...

      No because that 0.11 "jigawatz" over capacity will blow the flux capacitor right out the car. I think relying on Mr Fusion in this case will be a safer bet.

      1. Toltec

        Re: go from stand-by to 1.32 gigawatts in 12 seconds eh...

        The flux capacitor will be fine, you simply use the additional energy for the acceleration up to 88mph, which should take about a tenth of a second*

        * Delorean = 1230kg therefore approx 1.5 tons with a couple of passengers and extra time travel equipment.

        Terms and conditions apply, internal organs may be affected.

  9. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

    It was even more impressive during construction

    I was part of the team that produced the original computer based monitoring system (based on a PDP 11/34 with 2 RK05 disks (2.4MBytes each!!)).

    To get the main overhead cranes into position, large mobile cranes were used which had about 6 inches of clearance coming down the main access tunnel - the crane driver was superb.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It was even more impressive during construction

      You can achieve a lot with 6 inches... or so I'm told...

  10. cray74

    Now build a few dozen more...

    Dinorwig pumped storage power station is an answer to metering out erratic and unpredictable renewables like wind and solar. Unfortunately, few people want to knuckle down to build such large, expensive installations and seem to be looking for smaller storage options like batteries or ammonia fuel cells they can expand gradually, pacing the renewables and their revenues.

    Sorry, folks, you wanted wind and solar to power nations. You need power storage that can match those demands and there's no simple, cheap solution.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Now build a few dozen more...

      You're sort of right, but you can lose wind for a couple of weeks and it would take a fair size pond to balance that out.

      Pretty much if something doesn't work for a fortnight it may as well not work at all.

    2. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Re: Now build a few dozen more...

      No. Dinorwig was built to make best use of the nuclear stations that were planned at the time of its construction in 1974, well before the current interest in wind and solar.

      1. cray74

        Re: Now build a few dozen more...

        Dinorwig was built to make best use of the nuclear stations

        I'm familiar with Dinorwig's origins. It was following in the footsteps of other pumped storage facilities balancing nuclear output, like Ludington. My comment was directed at its current use and value in balancing renewables, and that renewables aren't going to sweep in to save us all without even more expense.

        but you can lose wind for a couple of weeks and it would take a fair size pond to balance that out.

        Hence my preference for nuclear power. Since nuclear plants have been designed with and have demonstrated load-following capabilities (e.g., the boiling water reactors around Chicago sometimes run in load-following mode), you don't even have to limit nuclear power to base load.

    3. itzman
      FAIL

      Re: Now build a few dozen more...

      Sorry, folks, you wanted wind and solar to power nations.

      No, I never did, because it cant.

      You need power storage that can match those demands and there's no simple, cheap solution.

      There's no solution at all, even complex and expensive. Especially in terms of storing summer solar energy for winter usage.

      Renewable energy is pretty much dead in the water as any competent electrical engineer can calculate for you. It doesn't work now and it never will.

      Largely its there to make money out of stupid consumers and to buy stupid green votes with.

      On those terms its been a spectacular success. It just fails to generate useful net amounts of energy at costs exceeding even the most ill-conceived nuclear plant...

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Now build a few dozen more...

        @Itzman,

        So given fossil is rapidly diminshing , are we all doomed or do you have any ideas?

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: Now build a few dozen more...

          "So given fossil is rapidly diminshing , are we all doomed or do you have any ideas?"

          I think the informed green analysis is that fossil isn't diminishing and that's the problem. We have enough filthy coal to last for another century or two and these oil shaley thingies could keep us in CO2 for the rest of your lifetime.

          For those who think this is a problem, might I recommend some nice nukes and a few facilities such as this one to balance the load? For those who don't think this is a problem, might I recommend the same, just so that there isn't a difficult decision to be made? For those who think this is a great opportunity to create a political bandwagon to ride on for a few years, might I suggest lots of renewables that neatly combine "appearing to do something" with "not actually solving the problem, thereby keeping the bandwagon rolling indefinitely".

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Now build a few dozen more...

            Speaking of bandwagons...

            "most democratic politicians seem to think that the way to close a stable door is to create a market in permits-to-leave-doors-open. So, if we conform to the dogma that climate change should be solved through markets, what’s the market-based way to ensure we achieve our simple goal [...]"

            https://www.withouthotair.com/c29/page_223.shtml

            Professor Sir David Mackay FRS, FInstP. RIP.

        2. cray74

          Re: Now build a few dozen more...

          So given fossil is rapidly diminshing , are we all doomed or do you have any ideas?

          I'd start by quibbling about "rapidly diminishing." Larger coal reserves, like those of North America, have some centuries of life in them. And we haven't really tapped methane clathrates.

          But there are lots of ways to replace fossil fuels. They just cost more than ready made fossil fuels sitting in the ground. Options include:

          1) Oil synthesis from water and coal or methane

          2) Oil synthesis from water and carbon dioxide

          3) Ammonia fuel synthesis from water and nitrogen

          4) Hydrogen synthesis from water

          (I'm not touching biofuels because they tend to compete with farming. The bioethanol craze in the US hurt food prices globally. Give me ammonia or propane synthesized with nuclear energy.)

          To replace fossil fuels all you need is lots of energy, more money, and the common feedstocks. And a convenient storage method in the case of hydrogen.

      2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        Re: Now build a few dozen more...

        "Sorry, folks, you wanted wind and solar to power nations.

        No, I never did, because it cant."

        Indeed, this needs more repeating. Some separation of the renewables into things that are grid level supply (like hydro), grid level but part time (big wind, solar concentrators), and stuff that is effectively small scale demand reduction (rooftop solar, micro wind/hydro, insulation).

        I've got some of the things that "count" as renewables, but I'm under no illusions that my dozen solar panels and three batteries would do anything other than allow me to scrape by and involve scheduling my power usage in ways that would drive me nuts. Good as a money saver, but not replacing the grid anytime soon. Hell, even if I ran a diesel generator it'd still be more hassle than just paying for the grid.

        While I do agree with your sentiments about generation, but nuclear seems an odd comparison, since there hasn't been a nuke built in the UK for ~30 years, so calcualting it's costs are pretty bunk as a comparison. Gas, waste, bio fuel and mini hydro (in about that order) are what the UK appears to have built, and while I <3 mini hydro it's never going to be viable* for the UK as a generation source.

        * based on NZ, which has masses of hydro, has mothballed and abandoned working hydro plants, and has 1/20th the population, hydro only does 50-60% of the base load, or 5-6% of the UK, if the UK had an equivalent to the mighty Waikato.

        1. Dagg
          Headmaster

          Re: Now build a few dozen more...

          Hey, MonkeyCee the hydro plants in New Zealand that have been mothballed or dismantled were all old and small and most were closed down over 60 years ago and were under 1 MW. Most of the current shutdown plants were thermal.

          Current capacity

          5452 MW Hydro

          2413 MW Thermal

          1014 MW Geothermal

          685 MW Wind

          68 MW Bio

          Planned capacity

          3400 MW Wind

          1000 MW Thermal

          285 MW Hydro

          250 MW Geothermal

          210 MW Tidal

      3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Now build a few dozen more...

        The solar panels on my roof charge my leccy car and send power to the grid. As soon as things like the Tesla Powerwall come down from their frankly stupidly silly price to something more affordable, going off grid will become a real possibity.

        Even on a cloudy day in winter it will give me 60-80% of a charge for the car.

        If that's not the future, then what is eh?

      4. Adam 1 Silver badge

        Re: Now build a few dozen more...

        > Renewable energy is pretty much dead in the water as any competent electrical engineer can calculate for you. It doesn't work now and it never will

        A brave prediction sir.

        Hydro has been with us for a long time. You can make many complaints about its environmental impact and the good sites are already taken, but there is no escaping that it works. It is usually a lot cheaper than coal or nuclear and can be classified as baseload. Also as mentioned in the article, it has by orders of magnitude the fastest cold boot times of any current baseload.

        I can completely understand that solar has a somewhat limited benefit in the UK but in other parts of the world we even get sun from time to time.

        The price of solar has dropped by orders of magnitude over the past decade. That trend is only going one way. The question longer term isn't whether some baseline can be replaced but rather how much is needed to maintain reliability. With pumped storage as illustrated here, that number can go much further north. Remember that solar doesn't require ongoing fuel costs so there will be a running cost advantage. Once those graphs cross over, it will be nigh impossible to get funding for new projects.

        Another important point is that not all demand is inelastic. We just haven't had the levers to discourage behaviour in real time until recently. Whilst lighting, cooking, air con or heating and of course warm beverages are a given, much industrial uses like smelters can be paid to partially shutdown for peak periods.

        Time of use "smart meters" are a longer term demand management opportunity. Each EV has a battery pack between about 10 and 60 kWh which again in a longer term can handle fluctuations.

        Whilst it isn't all going to change tomorrow, the writing is on the wall.

    4. Citizen99
      Linux

      Re: Now build a few dozen more...

      'Sorry, folks, you wanted wind and solar to power nations.'

      Not me, pal ;-)

      At least, only if/where the engineering & cost/benefit trade-offs make sense.

  11. Alan Potter 1
    Thumb Up

    Cruachan

    For those in the north of the country who want to see something similar, there is Ben Cruachan on the side of Loch Awe - http://www.visitcruachan.co.uk/

    Also a great tour (I was on it last year)

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Cruachan

      Agreed - very good tour.

      IIRC, Cruachan has previously been visited by El Reg for a Geek's Guide To Britain article

      1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

        Re: Cruachan @ Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese

        yes. Said article may be found here

        In fact, I would very much like to see a Reg article comparing these two power stations and how available technology at time of construction influenced the differences in design, function, and output.

  12. Ed 13
    Thumb Up

    Ffestiniog Pump Storage

    There's another (smaller - only 360MW) pump storage in North Wales at Ffestiniog (http://www.fhc.co.uk/ffestiniog.htm), not far from Dinorwig. It's an older design that uses separate pumps and turbines, rather than the reversible pump/tubines like Dinorwig.

    The history of both of these are tied in with the nuclear power stations in the area. Ffestiniog was built to complement the Trawsfynydd station, and Dinorwig to complement the Wylfa station on Anglesey.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ffestiniog Pump Storage

      "[...] and Dinorwig to complement the Wylfa station on Anglesey."

      Wylfa was also responsible for the nearby location of an aluminium smelting works. That formed Wylfa's essential base load to avoid stand-by periods. Being symbiotic - when Wylfa closed so did the smelter.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglesey_Aluminium

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wylfa

        [pedant]

        The smelter closure was annouced around the same time as the Wylfa closure was first announced, for the reason you mention - cheap reliable electricity is important to smelters.

        Then there were extensions to the Wylfa lifetime. The smelter had been closed, but Wylfa was still operating. Oh well.

        Then some bright spark found some fuel at Wylfa that allowed an extra few months operation.

        Generation finally ceased on 30 Dec 2015:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qveeBfU5G4

        The plant is currently being de-fueled, which will be followed by de-commissioning.

        [/pedant]

        This *might* be followed by the building of another nuclear plant nearby. But the UK nuclear program seems to be in just as much of a mess now as it has been for the last decade or more. Still, there's no risk of lights going out, is there...

        Or is there? Did anyone notice there was another gridco Notice of Insufficient Margin a week ago? (the third NISM since 2009, the previous one being November 2015). It was reported in the FT on Tuesday (paywall, go via Google may get you there for free):

        https://next.ft.com/content/0ac7d2e4-16b9-11e6-b197-a4af20d5575e

        I thought the Grid themselves listed these things somewhere but can't quickly find it.

  13. NotBob

    Wonky math

    547m (167ft) height as there are internal floors, but the 180m length and 23m (590ft)

    These conversions seem off, can we get reg standard units, please?

    1. Whiskers

      Re: Wonky math

      I propose '1 Dinorwig' as a standard unit. Of what exactly, I leave to others.

    2. calmeilles

      Re: Wonky math

      Transposed the feet and meter figures. Silly billies.

  14. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    memories ...

    I went for a visit many years ago. It was great fun but I remember one thing - hitting the sheep/cattle grid at the entrance at only about 4mph and the car rattling so hard it ejected the CD and broke the main dashboard mountings! The woman showing us around said "Oh yes, it is vicious but it still doesn't keep the sheep out." :-)

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: memories ...

      obligatory Welsh joke about keeping the sheep in ?

  15. Mike Richards Silver badge

    CEGB

    I wonder what our energy industry would look like today if the wanton vandalism of dismantling the foresighted CEGB had never happened?

    Ah lovely Dinorwig, I recall endless episodes of Blue Peter visiting it when it was under construction, and realising this was a. very. big. thing. indeed.

  16. Wolfclaw Silver badge

    This is what UK engineering was capable of doing, but thanks to successive governments bending over and getting shafted by the EU and foreign firms asset stripping our industries, we no longer have the manpower or skill to do it again !

    1. Len Silver badge

      Bollocks. Some of the world’s largest engineering countries are all EU member states. They are doing fine, not only building their own stuff but also exporting engineering prowess like there is no tomorrow. That is why German and Italian companies build our trains and French companies build our power plants.

      The problem is that the UK doesn’t value engineering. While in Germany it is a criminal offence to call oneself an engineer without the five-year university degree, in the UK some bloke who has followed a one-day course on installing broadband modems calls himself an engineer.

      Alas, people rather do Media Studies (or its posh equivalent, History) and want to become journalist.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        the UK doesn’t value engineering.

        It's not *quite* that simple (a few decent graduate engineers can get a decent wage in the City so long as they don't mind life on the Dark Side) but it's not far off.

        The real killer degree is not Media Studies but PPE at Oxford (Politics Philosophy and Economics, aka the three year doss, allowing plenty of time to develop the early stages of a career in politics). Look at how many senior UK politicians (and others) have been there, and what the results are:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_University_of_Oxford_people_with_PPE_degrees

        The Oxford four year engineering degree used to be worth something, but half the UK-origin graduates went straight into working for accounting companies. Probably more than half these days :(

        "in the UK some bloke who has followed a one-day course on installing broadband modems calls himself an engineer."

        And the Institution of Engineering and Technology doesn't even seem to care; its monthly 'professional journal' is now a pale imitation of something like T3, but wins awards for its graphic design. Hopeless.

        Very sad.

        1. Citizen99
          Linux

          Re: the UK doesn’t value engineering.

          I seem to remember an episode of Yes Minister where Sir Humphrey said of some politician with PPE '...oh yes, General Studies ...'

        2. Ian Emery Silver badge

          Re: the UK doesn’t value engineering.

          Some obscure "Media Studies" type courses at lower levels are worth 5 times as many credits as more difficult engineering courses - no wonder no one does engineering.

          At NVQ level, it is even more ridiculous; you can do a NVQ3 in Childcare over a week (if you could get the mentor teacher to turn up), yet the same in many engineering courses take 1-2 years.

      2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        Trains

        The UK builds trains for Germany and the Netherlands. I get a Bombardier built small train twice a day normally :)

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Trains

          "I get a Bombardier built small train twice a day normally :)"

          Yeah, but isn't Bombardier a Canadian company?

          1. Peter Ford

            Re: Trains

            "isn't Bombardier a Canadian company?"

            Depends how you say it. I think they prefer "bom-BAR-de-ay" so yes: (French?) Canadian.

            If it were British it would be "BOM-a-deer"

  17. Valerion

    Went there a couple of years ago

    I loved the tour, the wife and kids were not quite so impressed. Damn non-geeks.

    The cafe served some very nice cake if I remember correctly.

  18. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    For anyone interested in this kind of stuff, but down under

    Check out Snowy Hydro, it's really awesome. They used (IIRC) up to 60 thousand workers. They had to build the infrastructure in the first place!

    Let me add a "thank you" for the article. I'll surely go through those fine articles on the Reg before I visit the UK (admittedly no concrete plans yet).

  19. Booty003

    For those of you so inclined - there is an awesome Triathlon in this are called The Slateman. I have done it a few times and the run element involves running past the station itself and then trekking up said mountain and through some truly stunning scenery. The whole event has some beautiful views - well worth a look. The 2016 event is actually this weekend.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rate this article: 11 out of 10

    that is all

  21. Commswonk Silver badge

    Don't gloat yet awhile...

    @massivelySerial:While travelling I met a Californian who had discovered the "Amazing electric fast water boiling jug!!!" for the first time in his life.

    Seems he'd never seen a real kettle before because:

    240v x 13 amp ~ 3kW

    110v x 15 amp ~ 1.6kW

    While 3kW is more than enough to boil a litre of water during a commercial break, 1.6kW simply isn't. Gotta feel sorry for the yanks sometimes.

    I'd hold on to that "sorry" for a bit; if the rumours are true the EU Commission is itching to reduce the rating of kettles within the EU, much as it did with the size of vacuum cleaner motors. Just wait to see what happens after the June referendum.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Don't gloat yet awhile...

      But if Britain leaves Europe it will have to join America and so will be forced to use 110v.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Don't gloat yet awhile...

        The US may have a lower line voltage, but the residential installations are safer. I'm just amazed at what qualifies as "code" in the UK.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: kettle

      Does the name Revd Adrian Kennard mean anything to you? He's a geek and he runs a boutique ISP and leads the BT fan club (not) and he has a personal blog. He wrote about kettles a few days ago. Conclusion: misreporting. What a surprise.

      http://www.revk.uk/2016/05/check-my-physics-here.html

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Don't gloat yet awhile...

      "I'd hold on to that "sorry" for a bit; if the rumours are true the EU Commission is itching to reduce the rating of kettles within the EU, much as it did with the size of vacuum cleaner motors. Just wait to see what happens after the June referendum."

      Yes, they already did it to toasters! (Well, someone did anyway) FFS it takes bloody ages to get that first portion of toast out nowadays and the next lot isn't that much quicker. My feeling is that since so much heat rises up out of the toaster that having a lower heat for longer is more wasteful than a fast "blast" of high heat.

    4. fnj

      Re: Don't gloat yet awhile...

      @Commswonk - it's actually (nominally):

      230 x 13 = 2990

      120 x 15 = 1800

      So the ratio is 1.661, not 1.891.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Don't gloat yet awhile...

        The UK might be 230VAC nominal, but almost everywhere is actually 240-245VAC.

        230VAC +10% -5%

        A lot of new builds are tapped high to allow for sag without retapping.

        1. John Hughes

          Re: Don't gloat yet awhile...

          That's how they fixed the difference between 240V in the UK and 220 in Europe. They both moved to 230.

          In fact nothing changed but the labels as 220V ~= 230 - 10% and 240V ~= 230 + 10%. Everyone is happy.

  22. TRT Silver badge

    I hear been camping in Wales many times...

    the last time, when we did a trip to Dinorwig, we were woken at 5am by the farmer coming round and banging on the tents saying "Everyone up! The river's rising... higher ground, people." And the time before that, which was after a charity trek up and down Snowden, the farmer didn't bother to get us up, and we awoke to water lapping over the top of the the bucket sewn-in.

  23. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    surely the "ad break power surge" is fading into the past now?

    with on demand blah blah , and timeshifting gizmos

  24. TRT Silver badge

    There is actually a company...

    called Di Electric.

    Di-Electric services

    Tel: 01443 834630

  25. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Alien

    Just dont go in the basement

    where they filmed "aliens"... there maybe a few left over eggs still in there.....

  26. fnj

    Just keeping it real

    Everybody going on about 110/220 V please get with the program. It's been 120/240 V nominal at the entry into the house in the USA for simply ages. It's actually only spec'ed +-5%, so anything in the range 114-126 V is in spec for the supply. Equipment must be capable of working without appreciable handicap anywhere from 110-130 V. Most computers and TVs are perfectly happy working with 90 V or less, up to at least 130 and very often over 240 without any circuit switching.

    I am informed that the UK is 230 V, so the ratio is not "over 2.0"; not even exactly 2.0, but rather less than 2.0.

    I have a very strong memory of reading that the nominal voltage in the US used to be 110/220, but that was at least 50 years ago. I cannot now locate any trace of information on the web to that effect.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Just keeping it real

      The UK tends to use 110 on building sites simply because it's less lethal and those places are notorious for cut cables.

      1. Uffish

        Re: 110 on building sites

        When I was working on a building site (a very long time ago) it was 110V with the centre tap connected to earth. Thus an exposed wire would only be at 55V wrt earth.

  27. crediblywitless

    Can I just say "one point thirty-two gigawatts?" More than enough to run a time machine.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Remember it being built

    Whilst working as a trucker, I delivered the framing for the underground control room, from a fabrication specialist in Preston. was eerie driving down the access tunnel, to the massive undergorund cave at the heart of the mountain.

  29. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  30. RichardPSmith

    green lunacy

    pumping - generating - pumping - generating.

    Each time, what, 30% efficiency?

    This is not storing electricity, it is using it.

    1. cray74

      Re: green lunacy

      pumping - generating - pumping - generating. Each time, what, 30% efficiency?

      Pumped storage hovers in the 70-80% efficiency range between storing electricity (pumping with some efficiency loss through the 90%+ efficient electric motors) and generating (releasing water through the 90%+ efficient electric generators.) There are additional losses, like turbulence, heating, friction in pipes, etc. that bring you a bit below 80%.

      It's much better than, say, batteries. The only competitor on a similar scale is underground compressed air storage, though I might be forgetting another GW-scale power storage system.

      1. Vic

        Re: green lunacy

        The only competitor on a similar scale is underground compressed air storage

        Really?

        I've not seen any figures for such a system - but I've pumped a lot of scuba cylinders in my time, and the losses due to adiabatic compression heating were *enormous*...

        Vic.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: green lunacy

          "I've pumped a lot of scuba cylinders in my time, and the losses due to adiabatic compression heating were *enormous*..."

          Losses might well be proportionally enormous on that scale and for that purpose.

          If someone was using compressed gas for grid-scale energy storage it wouldn't be done quite the same way:

          "Liquid Air Energy Storage (LAES), also referred to as Cryogenic Energy Storage (CES), is a long duration, large scale energy storage technology that can be located at the point of demand. The working fluid is liquefied air or liquid nitrogen (~78% of air). LAES systems share performance characteristics with pumped hydro and can harness industrial low-grade waste heat/waste cold from co-located processes.

          Size extends from around 5MW to 100s+MWs and, with capacity and energy being de-coupled, the systems are very well suited to long duration applications."

          from http://energystorage.org/energy-storage/technologies/liquid-air-energy-storage-laes

          The engineering is tried tested and proven. The big snag is getting market pricing today (quarterly profits to be made, or else) to reflect a problem/solution a year or four down the road (no money to be made this quarter from stopping the lights going out in four years time).

          See also: Highview, Linde etc, e.g.

          http://www.the-linde-group.com/en/clean_technology/clean_technology_portfolio/energy_storage/liquid_air_energy_storage/index.html

          [Linde is a company which, amongst other things, supplies high volume industrial gases, e.g. liquid nitrogen produced on-site by liquefying air]

          1. Vic

            Re: green lunacy

            Liquid Air Energy Storage (LAES), also referred to as Cryogenic Energy Storage (CES)

            OK that's not actually a compressed-air storage system as mentioned earlier. Rather interesting, though.

            Efficiency without scavenged heat/cold seems to be about 60% - which is higher than I had expected, TBH.

            Vic.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: green lunacy

      Electrical plants can produce so much electricity per day.

      This allows you to store energy produced during the off peak hours and bring the generators on line during peak hours to distribute the "stored" electricity.

      Makes a lot of sense.

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: green lunacy

      No, the efficiency is much higher than 30%. You also have to factor in that the National Grid has to switch off a lot of wind power at night due to over supply. Coal and Nuke plants don't like to be turned on and off frequently. If the excess power can be stored even partially, it's a good investment. The 12 second turn on time is very handy for accommodating peak loads. There isn't any other system that can do that.

      Eventually, it may be possible to supplement and then replace pumped storage with electric cars that can move power in both directions as needed. The business model will need to be worked out and there will be a need for people to be able to opt-out from time to time if they are planning on a long trip and need a full charge in their cars.

  31. Nonymous Crowd Nerd

    Just a little more needed!

    While it's quite impressive that the power generated is sufficient to keep Wales going for five and a half hours, I'm afraid we need a little more than that to be able to get all our power from renewable sources. To cover a spell of windless dark days in mid winter would need about five and a half weeks power for the whole of the UK.

  32. Sean o' bhaile na gleann

    Getting back to the subject of the article, I noticed a small 1-paragraph report in the Times last Saturday, to the effect that '...no coal was burned last week for generating electricity in the UK. It all came from hydro or wind power.' (I'm not sure I actually believe that last bit). Due to many coal-fired power stations having been shut down, and the rest all down for maintenance, apparently. There was no mention of how much was imported from nuclear France, etc., but the report struck me as hugely significant. Worth far more than 5cm below the fold on page 5.

  33. nagyeger
    Mushroom

    Kettles

    In case anyone ever tries arguing with you that lower powered kettles are more efficient... Please apply the following simple bits of physics: convection, radiation, evaporation.

    The longer the kettle spends getting from 30°C to 100°C, the more these sources of heat loss will come into effect, therefore low power kettles are better at heating the air, and less efficient in heating the water.

    (The icon is for a nice efficient way of heating /lots/ of water.)

    D.

    PS. Would someone like to test how hot a 25W fish tank heater (without a working thermostat) will actually get a typical fish tank? My guess is somewhere around 50°C, but I don't have a fish tank to test it these days.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pot, kettle, black body

      No sensible person should try to argue that there's much of an 'efficiency' difference between kettles, in the same way that no sensible person will try to argue that there's much of an 'efficiency' difference between various forms of electric heating of the usual kinds (yes Rointe and similar, I'm looking at your garbage arguments).

      What might well be argued, and is valid, is that lower power kettles are more likely to motivate people to **only heat the water they need, when they need it** rather than heating a kettlefull, using a cupful, and wasting the rest. Because it takes longer (just in case anyone hasn't worked it out).

  34. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Now I'm boggin' for a cuppa

    Robert Llewelyn has a video posted of a tour of the plant on his "Fully Charged Show" YouTube channel.

    Amazing tech and a perfect compliment to wind power. Natural gas doesn't make sense as a back up for wind. To get a minimum start time for the NG plant, one has to use combustion turbines and it's much less expensive (more efficient) to just use combined cycle NG turbines all of the time and skip putting up the wind turbine. With pumped storage, it's a simple thing to push some water uphill when there is excess capacity in the grid.

    1. ShadowDragon8685

      Re: Now I'm boggin' for a cuppa

      I just read the titles of all of his Fully Charged videos and I couldn't find it. Was it taken down?

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Now I'm boggin' for a cuppa

        My mistake. It was on How do the do it? Which Robert hosted, but not this particular season.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cttWwqi8e_E

  35. Alan Bourke

    Of course we've had one here in Ireland

    since 1974.

  36. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Pumped storage is pretty useful

    I haven't been to Electric Mountain, but I have been to the Helms and Castaic pumped storage plants in California, and the one way up by Birney California, who's name I forget.

    They can be a bit hard on the local environment, because they take a lot of water and chew up a lot of fish life in the upper and lower reservoirs, but they are still a very useful option for peak and intermediate load generation. It's good to diversify generation sources anyway.

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