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Consortium wins European Commission grant to show feasibility of pumped-storage technologies

The European Commission has awarded a US$21.55 million grant to a consortium of renewable energy and technology companies to help upgrade Electricite de France's 485-MW Le Cheylas pumped-storage hydropower plant.

The eStorage consortium -- which includes Alstom, Electricite de France (EDF), Elia, Imperial College, DNV Kema and Algoe -- hopes to use Le Cheylas to prove pumped-storage projects can be a cost-effective part of Europe's renewable energy strategy.

eStorage said the use of variable-speed technologies can provide up to 10 GW of additional regulation capability at Europe's existing pumped-storage plants. Le Cheylas, which currently uses fixed-speed technologies, will generate an additional 70 MW following the introduction of variable-speed parts.

Fixed-speed pumped-storage plants can only produce energy when water flows from their upper reservoirs to their lower reservoirs. Variable-speed units, however, can also generate power while in pumping mode, effectively making them operable 24 hours per day.

eStorage said “virtually all” of the existing pumped-storage plants in Europe used fixed-speed units.

The European Commission said it hopes to prove variable-speed pumped-storage can help balance other renewable energy sources, allowing for “the integration of several hundred MW of intermittent renewable generation.”

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