This American Lake Is Actually One of the Largest Batteries in the World

Lake Michigan has been storing energy for 50 years. Its gigantic battery moves water instead of electrons.

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On a cliff 370 feet above Lake Michigan, one of the five Great Lakes of North America, stands one of the world’s largest batteries, which moves water instead of electrons.

Ludington Pumped Storage Plant. The power plant consists, essentially, of a man-made lake built over a giant natural lake, measuring 2.5 miles long and 1 mile wide. This reservoir is one of the largest and oldest pumped-storage hydroelectric facilities in the world.

“Two jetties and a breakwater protect the intake and outflow channel from the waves and currents of Lake Michigan,” the NASA Earth Observatory explains, adding that, “a barrier is installed from April through October, when ice conditions permit, to keep fish away from the intake.”

A battery that's been operating for half a century. Instead of relying on complex chemistry like lithium-ion batteries, the Michigan hydroelectric plant’s battery utilizes water and Newtonian physics to store energy:

  • During periods of low electricity demand, surplus energy from the grid is used to pump water from the lake into a reservoir located 370 feet above sea level.
  • During periods of high energy demand, the water is released back into the lake, causing turbines to spin in the opposite direction and generating hydroelectric power that is then supplied back into the grid.

The Ludington plant has been operational since 1973, which means the battery has been working for more than 50 years. What’s more, it’ll continue to do so as long as there is water available to facilitate the process.

As seen from space. NASA has shared an image (see above) of the Ludington plant taken on March 3 from Landsat 8, an observation satellite orbiting Earth.

The Michigan power plant has an installed capacity of 1,872 MW, which is capable of powering 1.5 million households. Currently, the world’s largest pumped storage facilities are located in China. The Guangdong power station, for example, has a capacity of 2,400 MW.

Image | NASA Earth Observatory

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