A typical hydroelectric project with a physical dam and water reservoir Getty A Chilean utility has broken ground on a 50 megawatt-hour (MWh) battery energy storage project – equivalent to the capacity of 5 million iPhones – paired with a run-of-river hydroelectric facility. The battery will be capable of storing electricity produced from the hydro generation without needing to construct a dam or make use of a water reservoir, creating instead a “virtual dam” that can deliver 10 megawatts (MW) of power for 5 hours. What’s the difference? At present, more than 96 percent of the world’s installed energy storage capacity comes from pumped storage . Able to provide renewable energy exactly when it is needed, these projects usually involve the construction of upper and lower water reservoirs, either with or without accompanying dams. A turbine sits in between, generating electricity as water flows downhill, with pumps used to push water back uphill to the upper reservoir for storage and later use. Grid-scale batteries on the other hand use rechargeable lithium-ion technology similar to that found in smartphones and electric cars, aggregated at scale to deliver the same electricity storage capability. They also allow a hydro facility to generate […]

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