Hydroelectric Linthal 2015 cable link (Gruner.ch)

Published on May 26th, 2014 | by Sandy Dechert


Nuclear-Strength Linthal 2015 Takes Shape In Swiss Alps

May 26th, 2014 by  

Linthal 2015 cable link (Gruner.ch)Yes, this is a picture of a dump truck being hoisted up a mountain on cables. And no, it’s not photoshopped. You’re looking at the largest cable lift in the world, almost 2 kilometers long and 600 meters high, with two towers, a load capacity of up to 40 tons, cables 90 mm thick, and a pretty good speed of 5 meters per second.

The system took three years to build. And transport dumpers are not the heaviest loads it can carry, although they’re probably the most photogenic. The system can also lift whole ship containers.

Next surprise: this mammoth cable system is only a temporary fixture. It’s there to support construction of a huge $1.5 billion hydroelectric pumped-storage power plant called Linthal 2015.

Workers from the Linth-Limmern AG utility, its partners the Canton of Glarus and Axpo AG, are now building this electric Godzilla about an hour from Zurich, Switzerland, high in the rocky Glarner mountains of the eastern Alps. As you can see from the photo, the area is so mountainous that road access for construction is impossible—thus the cableways.

Linthal 2015 pumped-storage facility

Peak energy demand in the European grid is growing steadily. Consumption patterns and forms of production have changed considerably since construction of the original infrastructure. Production peaks/shortfalls from renewable power sources may require balancing at short notice. Also, security of supply has become a higher priority. These considerations all increase the usefulness of electric generators with peak-power storage. As well as providing power, Linthal 2015 will basically act as a huge battery.

Workers expect to complete the plant next year. (Their grandparents had a little practice with this type of project, having built an artificial lake [the Limmernsee] and an earlier 480 MW power plant lower down the mountain, at 1,900m above sea level, in the 1960s.) The new storage lake (Muttsee) will be 600 meters higher up the mountain than the Limmernsee. The lakes will be connected via two headrace tunnels and produce a net hydraulic head of 623 meters (2,044 ft).

Linthal 2015 pumped-storage plant (Gruner.ch
A huge, deep cave with an inclined underground access gallery will house all the turbine and transformer machinery. Planned pump and turbine power is about 1,000 MW. With the output from the original facility, the Linthal 2015 project will produce easily as much power as a nuclear generating station. It will rank among the top 15 pumped-storage plants in the world.

The cablecar system will be dismantled when a funicular railway inside the gallery is complete. The railway will transport large, heavy machine components—including 215-ton transformers—and personnel directly from the base installation site of Tierfehd, near the foot of the mountain, to the turbine cavern. 380 kV cables run along the gallery shoulders will transmit the generated power.

Now, would you like to hear about the avalanche protection system? OK, maybe next time…. (If you really want to know, access the article by Thomas Rentsch and Ruedi Stüssi in the online Proceedings of the International Snow Science Workshop 2009.)

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About the Author

covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."

  • heinbloed

    The German press on the market situation of pumped hydro power in the Alps:


  • heinbloed

    The English press on the market situation of hydro/PS-power in Europe:


  • heinbloed

    The new Linthal storage is part of a system of hydro-storage power generators.
    The natural input from small streams and snow and rain over the entire area (140km2) is around 460MWh/a, this part can be harvested without pumping.

    (In German language at page 2 here: http://www.axpo.com/content/dam/axpo/switzerland/erleben/dokumente/130429_Axpo_Zukunft_Wasserkraft_5Aufl.pdf )

    For a graphic explanation of the new entire system see page 9/16 of the pdf document, again in German language.

    Pumpen = pumps
    Turbinen = turbines

    The owners fear that the RE-power will make their investment useless ( non-profitable for them).
    This system was designed a long time ago to take base load power every day and distribute it back at peak load every day.
    However with the increased RE in the European grid and phasing out of base load power plants this business concept is a failure.
    Most other pumped storage constructions have been put on hold.Some are being build with a reduced output, decreasing previously planned capacity.

    There is no noon peak-load in price anymore at most days due to PV-generation.
    And wind blows into any other planned profitable models.

    The Swiss TV about the issue:


    Peakload prices are near base load prices nowadays. See the EEX, use the tool and compare year to year prices and see the nearing:


    • Henry WA

      What does the “a” in 460MWh/a stand for? Hopefully this is a very valuable addition to Europe’s overall renewable energy scheme and the construction cost appears quite moderate at $1.50 W. As I understand it, this project can be regarded as a large rechargeable battery, comprising both energy free “fuel” (ie the natural stream run-off) and the pumped water storage. There are likely to be times of the year in Spring when all the water comes from natural streams. It seems that it has both baseload capacity (in the sense that part of its “fuel” is free and the more valuable dispatchable capacity (within the limits of its water reservoir). It apparently has a peak discharge (power generation) capacity of 1000MW/h. For how many hours or days can it maintain that maximum discharge, assuming its power was needed to replace wind or solar for a prolonged period. Therefore both the cost per kwh and the storage capacity are important questions. (The Norwegian Hydro Electric system acts as Denmark’s “storage battery” in a largely similar way.)

      • heinbloed

        Henry WA asks:

        ” What does the “a” in 460MWh/a stand for? ”

        That is roughly 1.2 MWh per day, a small 50 kW biogasplant would do that.

        It stands for 460 MWh of electricity generated by passing water through the turbines which has not previously been pumped up. Rainwater and snow and from molten ice and snow fields.

        The money is being blasted critics say.

        An employment scheme for bankers and tunnel engineers, for the Swiss industry.

        Most planned pumped storage projects in Europe have been canceled because the difference between peak load price and base load price does not justify these megalomanic projects.

        Even in Norway there are larger projects being planned, the difference between peak load price and baseload price does not justify the grid charge costs to transport power from a to b.

        When the PV and wind situation is favourable the run-of-the-river power plants are put in idle modus to keep the grid stable.

        This was the case now several times this year in central Europe, for example along the upper river Rhine near the Swiss border only as recently the previous weekend.

        Since more RE plants are being added (cheap electricity) and the grid is being extended (leveling of international el.price) the situation won’t get better for pumped storage until at least 2020 when several atomic power plants are being closed for good.

        There is an oversupply of electricity in Europe.

        Hence the questions here for the production price per kWh or MWh: how can Linthal compete ?

        Very likely the tax payer has to fund a bad bank, similar to the bailout proposals of the coal, gas and atomic industry.


        ” The Norwegian Hydro Electric system acts as Denmark’s “storage battery” in a largely similar way “.

        This isn’t the case. The Norwegian hydro power system is run-of-the-river based and dam based.

        Not pumped storage.

        The Danes frequently deliver cheaper electricity to Norway than the Norwegian hydro power can produce, dams and turbines cost money after all.

        And Norway stops the hydro turbines if imported el. is cheaper than home-made hydro power.

        And if the Danish prices increases the Danish power plants stop operating and el. will be imported. From Norway or where ever.

        As said above: now run-of-the-river plants are idled in Germany as well. Not only in Norway anymore.

        This phenomena will increase all over the world, PV and wind are the cheapest producers once installed, run-of-the-river the second cheapest, base load fossile and atomic power the third cheapest , biomass and methane the 4th cheapest and so on.

        Pumped hydro is the most expensive and therefore will be idled the most time.

        The consequence will change, but once installed PV and wind are the cheapest.

        ( France, using the Swiss alps for pumped hydro as well just corrected their atomic power price by + 25%, see

        http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/27/edf-costs-idUSL6N0OC3XJ20140527?feedType=RSS&feedName=rbssEnergyNews )

        The political question arises if society should take over failed investments. Or let the ignorant and greedy ‘investor’ go bancrupt.

        • heinbloed

          Sorry, I got lost !

          ” What does the “a” in 460MWh/a stand for? ”

          “a” stands for “annum” (Latin) and this means ” year ”

          The 460MWh/a mean that per year 460 MWh can be procuded. Or roughly 1200kWh per day. A larger 24h/d chipshop would use that.
          Or the Linthal system for controls, ilumination,elevators, ventilation and office (guesstimated).

  • Sofia Caden

    That is certainly 1 big bold project… http://bit.ly/TP1AGq

  • agelbert

    This will work! Pumped hydro is an excellent way to store excess renewable energy from wind or sun (or whatever). Another massive nail in the fossil fuel coffin! [img]http://www.pic4ever.com/images/minzdr.gif[/img]

  • That’s one big bold project…

  • Bob_Wallace

    What I want to hear about is the cost per kWh for storage.

    • Offgridmanpolktn

      1.5 billion dollar project with a 1,000 megawatt capacity, so approximately 1,500$ per Kw unless I dropped a zero someplace, just doing this in my head for you

      • Offgridmanpolktn

        Another thought that just came to me is that this project is going to be constantly cycling power in and out pumping up during peak production of renewables when there’s not enough load and likely at minimum load times when power costs are at a minimum. Then feeding out during peak demand when supply from other sources runs short. So while I gave you the cost per Kw which was pretty simple, the cost per Kwh will really depend upon the total life cycle of this plant and how much electricity runs in and out through the years of operation. It could be possible that this will still be operating a hundred years from now and so a total cost per Kwh of service will still not be able to be figured

        • Bob_Wallace

          Yes, $/kW is fairly simple to calculate. When going for $/kWh it gets more complicated involving average cycles per day, average kWh per year, operating costs, efficiency, cycle life and probably some things I’ve overlooked.

      • Frozen

        Note that’s per peak watt; the installation is a net energy consumer.

        Eos Energy claims to have a zinc-air battery with round-trip efficiency of 75% and a cost of $1000/kW(peak)/$160/kWh with a 20-year lifespan, IIRC.  That looks very competitive, and doesn’t require re-arranging mountains.

        • Ulenspiegel

          You already gave the answer, why batteries are not the better solution – 20-year lifspan.

          A dam is good for 100 years, the the turbines have to be rplaced after35 -40 years….

          • Frozen

            Dams may last 100 years, but they are very dangerous when they fail (look up Banqiao, which makes Chernobyl look like a one-car accident) and there’s a lot of Kansas compared to just a little bit of Switzerland.

    • Ronald Brakels

      Well, if it costs $1,500 a kilowatt, is run for an average of 4 hours a day, lasts say 60 years, and a 5% discount rate is used then the cost of storage is going to be about 5.6 cents a kilowatt-hour. If it is charged with electricity that costs 2 cents a kilowatt-hour then it will have to sell electricity for an average of about 8.2 cents a kilowatt-hour to prevent operating at a loss. That’s expensive but cheaper than using a new gas plant for peak power or trying to get peak power out of a nuclear plant, or baseload power for that matter. Note that this is all just speculation. I don’t have the actual figures.

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