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Nant de Drance is a Massive Step in Renewable Energy

By: Jingwei Zhao

Last summer, after 14 years, Switzerland finally completed the $2.1 billion Nant de Drance, . This massive feat of engineering both stores water and generates energy. Some people gave it the nickname “water battery” as it can store as much energy as more than 400,000 car batteries.

The machine works by gravity, with two large water reservoirs located in the Swiss mountains. One is higher than the other and they are connected to each other through tunnels. If too much energy is generated, the mechanism can pump up some of the water from the lower reservoir to the higher one, because the upper reservoir can be used to store the water.

This machine has a simple system, in which the water from the upper reservoir is pulled by gravity into the tunnels. It is then rushed into six large turbines that generate electricity.

Despite the simplicity of the design, it was incredibly hard to build. For example, the workers had to double the size of the upper reservoir. According to a news article from, “Workers had to create 10.5 miles (17 kilometers) of large tunnels connecting the two reservoirs. That meant carving out huge amounts of rock from inside the mountains.”

You may be wondering how turbines generate electricity. Well, the wrote, “In a turbine generator, a moving fluid—water, steam, combustion gases, or air—pushes a series of blades mounted on a rotor shaft. The force of the fluid on the blades spins/rotates the rotor shaft of a generator. The generator, in turn, converts the mechanical (kinetic) energy of the rotor to electrical energy.” There are also many different types of turbines, such as the combustion gas turbine. For using water to generate electricity, hydroelectric turbines are used. Chances are, these are the turbines found in the Nant de Drance.

So many of our options for renewable energy have flaws. Solar panels only collect energy when the sun is out. Wind turbines rely on there being wind. For renewable energy to be ready at any time, it needs to be stored. Europe aims to have four times more energy than it currently possesses, and Switzerland has made a big impact with their invention. Using water storage is not a new idea, but Nant de Drance is the best design so far. It is environmentally friendly because it is underground and doesn’t require much effort to maintain it.

In my opinion, I believe that the government should invest in water batteries. I attended an FLL (First Lego League) competition, which sparked a question in my mind. What is the best source of renewable energy? Me and my team concluded that waterpower was the best. It is abundant, cyclic, and has some serious potential. Despite it being a relatively new concept, many of the places that have a working energy generator can produce semi-large amounts of energy. There have been many different designs to harness wave and water energy, which is why I believe that the government should heavily invest in waterpower as a renewable energy source

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