Hoover Dam might just become the world’s largest solar battery thanks to a new city initiative.
Everyone knows about Hoover Dam, one of the largest dams ever built and was the largest hydroelectric dam in the world upon completion by the end of the 1930s. Today it still remains an important source of energy, but it’s also a huge historic site and tourist attraction.
Soon, it may once again grab a world’s first as the largest solar battery ever made.
This requires a bit of explanation, starting with the problems of solar power. We can generate electricity using the sun, but the problem is the sun isn’t exactly a reliable source. During the day clouds can obscure the sun and prevent the transfer of power, and every day the sun disappears entirely which shuts off the flow of power.
But we can get a lot of power from the sun during the day, and especially in California where clouds are few and far between. The real problem is storing that power so it can be used later on.
So far, lithium-ion batteries are great for keeping your cell phone working and are getting better at powering a car, but they’re still not able to store the kind of power needed for an entire city, especially not one the size of Los Angeles. For that, we need a much better battery.
Hoover Dam might not look it, but it’s actually a fantastic battery. By creating a water pump station downstream that’s entirely powered by wind and solar generators, you can pump water back into Lake Mead to be used to make power at the dam. Since power generation at the dam is controlled by valves, you essentially store power by storing water to use later.
To summarize, this pumping station turns solar and wind energy into potential energy to be used later to create electricity--just like a battery. And Hoover Dam can store a lot of energy.
Speaking to The New York Times, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he wanted to make his city the world’s first city to be entirely powered by renewable energy sources, and thinks this is the way to go about it.
“Our challenge is: How do we get to 100 percent green?” he said. “Storage helps. There’s no bigger battery in our system than Hoover Dam.”
Los Angeles is currently evaluating proposals, but if all goes as planned we could see the Hoover Dam get a new lease as a solar battery in 2028.