One of the world’s largest pumped hydropower projects, with an electricity storage capacity equivalent to 400,000 electric vehicles, is set to begin operations soon in the Swiss Alps.

The Nant de Drance facility will funnel water from the Emosson Reservoir near the French border to a lower reservoir to the south, Clean Technica reports. As the water flows through 11 miles of tunnels built over the last 14 years, it will power six of the largest water-driven generators in the world. The turbines have the capacity to generate 900 megawatts of electricity, roughly enough to power up to 500,000 homes.

When power demand is low, surplus electricity from the Nant de Drance installation can be used to pump water from the lower reservoir back up to the Emosson Reservoir, which has a capacity of 6.5 trillion gallons. The water can then be channeled back down and pumped back up again and again, creating a steady and renewable supply of electricity and energy storage.

Nant de Drance, owned by a consortium led by electricity producer Alpiq and the Swiss Federal Railways, will be one of Europe’s most powerful electricity-generating plants. Alain Sauthier, chief engineer and director of the Nante de Drance plant, predicts that, given the facility’s large energy storage capacity, it “can play a role in stabilizing the grid at a European level.” He added, “If there is an overproduction of wind power in Germany, we can use the surplus electricity to pump and store water.”


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