The largest battery in the world has sat quietly in George Washington National Forest along the Virginia-West Virginia border for nearly 30 years. A five-hour drive from the nation’s capital, it sits in the middle of the Appalachians, tucked behind the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Very few people in the urban areas that benefit from its power know of its existence, let alone its purpose. Talk to people that live and work a few miles away in Warm Springs, Virginia, and some will have a vague awareness but will readily admit that they don’t spare a thought for how electricity gets to their outlets. Dan Gessler, who works for Dominion Power, the company that operates the facility, put it simply: “I think the vast majority of the public doesn’t even know it exists, it’s up here in the middle of nowhere out in the mountains.”
The Bath County Hydro Pumped Storage Facility is not really a battery in the common sense of the term, but it is the largest pumped storage facility in the world. It stores a lot of energy, which helps 60 million people in 13 states (and DC) served by the regional transmission organization, PJM Interconnection. Quite often when someone in that huge area comes home from work and turns on the lights or switches on the TV, some of those electrons flowing down the power lines are coming from two lakes on a mountain in rural Virginia.
When Sean Fridley, the facility’s Station Manager, looks at the Upper Reservoir perched a thousand feet above his office, he doesn’t see drops of water. He sees a thousands-of-megawatts-deep block of power, a huge amount of stored potential energy — with more output than the Hoover Dam — that he can turn on with a flick of a switch.
“It’s one of the biggest engineering projects, ever,” Fridley said. “The machinery is huge.”
But can such a massive “battery” be drained by climate-fueled drought?
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Via Chuck Sherwood, Senior Associate, TeleDimensions, Inc