SINTEF & Norwegian Scientist
To use the water pressure at the sea bed in practice, the mechanical energy is converted by a reversible pump turbine, as in a normal pumped storage hydroelectric plant. „A pumped storage power plant is a hydroelectric plant which can be „charged“ up again by pumping the water back to the upper reservoir once it has passed through a turbine. This type of power plant is used as a „battery,“ when connected to the power grid,“ the inventor explains. In this pumped storage power plant turbine will be connected to a tank on the seabed at a depth of 400-800 metres. The turbine is fitted with a valve, and when this is opened, water flows in and starts turning the turbine. The turbine drives a generator to produce electricity. One can connect as many tanks as one wishes. In other words, it is the number of water tanks that decides how long the plant can generate electricity, before the energy storage capacity is exhausted. „When the water tanks are full, the water must be removed from the tanks,“ Schramm explains. This is achieved by running the turbine in reverse, so that it functions as a pump. The process consumes energy from the power grid, just as when one charges an ordinary battery. Although a bit more energy is used to empty the water tanks than can be recovered from flooding them, the degree of efficiency of this type of power plant is just as high as that of a conventional, onshore plant. According to Schramm, calculations indicate an electric storage efficiency of approximately 80 per cent round-trip. Another advantage of the system is that equipment can be scaled according to users‘ requirements, both as regards the turbine size and the number of water tanks. A plant of normal size will produce roughly 300 megawatts for a period of 7-8 hours. This is enough energy to supply just over 200,000 British households with electricity for the same time.