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Construction begins on 3.5GWh Gran Canaria pumped hydro plant; progress on 18GWh more PHES

By Cameron Murray
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Tunnels at Iberdrola’s Tâmega hydropower complex in North Portugal which includes 880MW of PHES. Image: Iberdrola

Construction has started on a 3.5GWh pumped hydro plant in Gran Canaria, Spain, and progress has been made on two other projects totalling 18GWh of storage in mainland Spain and Nevada, US.

Salto de Chira, Gran Canaria, Spain

Spanish electricity grid operator Red Eléctrica de España last week (17 February) announced the start of construction on the 200MW/3,500MWh Salto de Chira pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) plant on Gran Canaria, one of the Canary Islands autonomous Spanish province, off the coast of northwest Africa.

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It says construction will take just under six years to complete (70 months) although indicates the plant will become at least partially operational in 2026. It will use two existing reservoirs formed by the Chira and Soria dams and its 200MW of power is equivalent to 36% of the island’s peak demand. 

More than €400m (US$453.75 million) is being invested in the construction of the PHES plant and the government says it will save €122m a year for the electricity grid by promoting energy independence and reducing fossil fuel imports. It will help increase the island’s annual average proportion of renewable energy production for electricity to 51% from just under 20% in 2021.

White Pine County, Nevada, US

In Nevada, US, a draft licence application for a 1GW PHES project was submitted to state and federal agencies by renewable energy developer rPlus Energies through its PHES arm rPlus Hydro, on 18 February.

It will be capable of eight hours of full output meaning 8GWh storage in total. 

The White Pine Pumped Storage Project in White Pine County will be the state’s first closed loop pumped hydro storage project and will provide up to 1,000 MW of flexible, long-duration, generating capacity. That is one-eighth of Nevada’s ‘peak power demand on a hot summer day’, the firm says. 

Luigi Resta, president of Rplus Energies which itself is part of real estate group The Gardner Companies, said: “rPlus Hydro is excited to advance the development of the White Pine Pumped Storage Project to provide Nevada and the greater region a source of reliable, long-duration energy storage and generation that is sustainable and environmentally responsible.” 

Project development, including design, studies, regulatory approvals and land acquisition is slated to take place from 2020-2025 with construction beginning in 2026 for a 2030 project delivery date. Total investment in the project as currently designed will be US$2 billion.

It will require a 5,000-acre-feet one-time water fill and a new 28-mile long transmission line connecting the project with the Robinson Summit substation, and its upper and lower reservoirs will have a 600-metre elevation difference.

Xistral, Galicia, Spain

Last week also saw a meeting between Spanish renewables group Atalaya Generacion and five municipality mayors in Galicia where Atalaya is hoping to build a 936MW power, 10.12GWh energy PHES plant. 

The firm says the mayors received detailed information about the project, which will be in the A Marina stretch of coastline in Lugo, and the economic and social impacts it is hoping to achieve. Atalaya claims that, if approved, construction could begin as early as this year for a project delivery date of 2026. 

Atalaya submitted an initial document (documento inicial) titled the ‘Pre-project of the Xistral Reversible Hydropower Plant’ in December 2021, in which it sets out its plans. It is one of three PHES projects which the regional authorities are considering, with the two smaller project proposals brought by Capital Energy and Magtel.

Pumped hydro plants around the world

Spain and Portugal are hot markets for PHES right now, with Spain in particular having set huge targets for energy storage deployment. Iberdrola’s 880MW plant in north Portugal is coming online in mid-2022 as reported by Energy-storage.news

Other similarly sized projects elsewhere include a recently-proposed 900MW plant in Wyoming, US, while a 1,200MW one in Andhra Pradesh, India, has begun construction, as has a smaller 250MW/2,000MWh plant in Australia, the first new PHES in the country to be built since 1984.

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