Monday, February 27, 2012

My vision for a LARGER hydro dam at Coire Glas, Scotland than SSE's

I am presenting here my vision for a large pumped storage hydroelectric 2-square kilometres surface-area reservoir and 300+ metre tall dam which I have designed for the Coire Glas site, Scotland.

(View site using Google Earth where the convenient label is "Loch a' Choire Ghlais" )

I was inspired to conceive and to publish my vision by learning of the Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) proposal to build a smaller hydroelectric pumped-storage scheme at Coire Glas which has been presented to the Scottish government for public consultation.

I have not long been aware of the SSE plan for the Coire Glas scheme, not being a follower of such matters routinely, but I was prompted by an earlier tangentially-related news story (about energy storage technology for renewable energy generators such as wind farms) to write to Members of the Scottish Parliament on the merits and urgency of new pumped storage hydroelectric power for Scotland on 14th February and a reply from Ian Anderson, the parliamentary manager for Dave Thomson MSP received the next day, the 15th February informed me about the SSE plan and Ian added "initially scoped at 600MW but, to quote SSE, could be bigger!"

I replied to Ian "So the schemes proposed by the SSE are welcome and ought to be green-lighted and fast-tracked, but I am really proposing that Scots start thinking long term about an order of magnitude and more greater investment in pumped storage hydroelectric capacity than those SSE plans."

So I had in mind "bigger would be better" but it was not until the next day on the 16th February when a news story informed me that the SSE plans had been submitted to the Scottish government for public consultation that I thought "this needs consideration now".

So starting late on the night of the 17th, early 18th February and all through the weekend, I got busy, outlining my alternative vision for a far bigger dam and reservoir at the same location.

So this is my vision as inspired by the SSE plan. If my vision is flawed then the fault is mine alone. If my vision is brilliant, then the brilliance too is mine.

The black contour line at 550 metres elevation shows the outline of the SSE proposed reservoir of about 1 square kilometre surface-area and the grey thick line shows the position of the proposed SSE dam which would stand 92 metres tall and would be the tallest dam in Scotland and indeed Britain to date though it seems our dams are several times smaller than the tallest dams elsewhere in the world these days.

Part of the red contour line at 775 metres elevation, where the red line surrounds a blue shaded area, blue representing water, shows the outline of my larger reservoir of about 2 square kilometres surface-area and the thicker brown line shows the position of my proposed dam which would stand 317 metres tall which would be one of the tallest man-made dams in the world.

Enhanced satellite photograph

Cross section of the Dow-dam

The Dow-dam would be more than 3 times higher than the proposed SSE-dam. In this diagram, a horizontal line one third of the way up the Dow-dam indicates the relative height of the SSE dam although it is not aligned with this cross-section.

Maps showing the line of cross-section viewed from each side

Cross section of the Dow-dam reservoir

Cross section along the major diameter of the elliptical excavation of the reservoir bed

Excavated Reservoir Bed

The green ellipse of major diameter of 1.5 kilometres and minor diameter of 1 kilometre represents an excavated reservoir bed, as flat and as horizontal as practical, at an elevation of 463 metres.

Since an excavated reservoir bed is not, that I can see, part of the SSE plan, at any size, I will provide some more information about my vision for that now.

The basic idea of excavating a flat or flattish reservoir bed is to increase the volume of the water stored in the reservoir because more water means more energy can be stored.

Depending on the geology and strength of the rock of Coire Glas the walls of the reservoir bed perimeter could be as steep as vertical from the reservoir bed up to the natural elevation of the existing rock surface which would mean, presumably, blasting out rock to create a cliff which at places could be as much as about 290 metres tall.

Near the dam, the reservoir bed perimeter wall would be only 40 metres or less tall. The further from the dam, the higher the wall will be and the more rock needs to be excavated.

A vertical reservoir bed perimeter wall would be ideal to maximise reservoir volume wherever the geology provides a strong stone which can maintain a vertical wall face without collapse, (a stone such as granite perhaps).

Where the geology only provides a weaker stone then a sloping perimeter wall at a suitable angle of repose for reliable stability would be constructed.

So the reservoir perimeter wall could be as sloped as shallow as 45 degrees from the natural elevation at the perimeter of the eclipse sloping down to the reservoir bed at 463 metres elevation in the case of the weakest and most prone to collapse kinds of stone.

Exactly how strong the stone is at each location I guess we'll only find out absolutely for sure if and when engineers start blasting it and testing the revealed rock wall face for strength.

The shape of the perimeter of the excavated reservoir bed is not absolutely critical. So long as it ends up as a stable wall or slope, however it is shaped by the blasting, it will be fine. There is no need to have stone masons chip the perimeter smooth and flat! The ellipse is simply the easiest approximate mathematical shape to describe and to draw. If the end result is not a perfect ellipse, don't worry, it will be fine!

OK, well I guess that's the vision part over. The rest is fairly straight-forward engineering I hope. Oh, and there is always getting the permission and the funding to build it of course which is never easy for anything this big.

OK, well if anyone has any questions or points to make about my vision or can say why they think the SSE plan is better than mine, or if you don't see why we need any pumped storage hydroelectric scheme at Coire Glas, whatever your point of view, if you have something to add in reply, please do.

From the For Freedom Forums "Scottish Economy" topic.