Where in Donegal?

This document reached me by way of the European Commission. It shows that some people are working hard to convince the Commission that Bogtec is a transnational infrastructure project of European importance (and thus qualifies for subsidies). It also shows that the Spirit of Ireland refuses to die.

There is mention of a glacial valley near Kilcar, Co Donegal. A dam, 1300 meters wide and 120 meters high (in the middle), would create an upper reservoir with a surface of 4 squared kilometers; assuming that the valley is triangular, the reservoir would be 6150 meters long. The sea would be the lower reservoir. Surplus wind power would pump the water from the sea into the reservoir. Releasing the water back into the sea, power would be generated when there’s demand.

I’ve been hiking in Donegal only a few times. Is there a glacial valley near the sea, of the above dimensions, uninhabited, and not full of archaeological treasure?

UPDATE: I’ve had one vote for Glenaddragh River Valley, which is a good way from the sea.

UPDATE2: Another correspondent forwarded this map, discussed by Donegal County Council. The hydro plan was apparently rejected as it failed to meet the requirements of the SEA Directive on procedural grounds.

17 replies on “Where in Donegal?”

“Is there a glacial valley near the sea, of the above dimensions, uninhabited”

Current economic policy can deliver a valley in Donegal devoid of people over a reasonably short period .

Glenaddragh River Valley looks like a good fit. Very nearly uninhabited, close to Kiclar, close enough to the sea and about the right size. Some Archeology interest – Megalithic tombs and iron Age Ring forts in the vicinity. Filling a pumped storage upper reservoir using wind power ( the most expensive and unreliable form of generation we have ) will take a long time and discharging it will be very rapid. Project does not make any engineering ( or indeed economic) sense. Just another form of Subsidy Mining I guess.

One wonders what the effects of seawater on the water table would be, apart from the more obvious environmental issues.


One wonders what the effects of seawater on the water table would be, apart from the more obvious environmental issues.

It is a tough one, importing and burning fossil fuels has environmental costs but Ireland’s relatively abundant fresh water resources are a national asset – if dissolved minerals from seawater are anywhere as serious a threat as fracking to the water table we would have to say no.

I would be interested in hearing what a hydrologist had to say (is bigger better (minimum surface area for the maximum volume) or is depth/pressure the major feature.

What matters most is the number of days storage required. Everything else would be scaled to that. A detailed analysis of wind patterns over fifty years would go a long way in answering the question of storage capacity.

In a country like Ireland where a four year old can dig a hole in the back yard deep enough to drown himself in ground water, the problem of salt contamination of ground water is not a big issue. Think of a big sponge draining into the sea.

The availability of a cheap to construct reservoir would be the next most important issue.

Optimisation of height to pump, depth (fall) to generate, connection to back bone network would be next on the list.

I remember reading about a system near Newcastle (of coal fame) where a pond was used to store surplus energy which was hydro generated during peak demand. This was small scale and before my time.

@Richard Tol

I has presumed that there would be a certain amount of seepage through the walls and floors of the valley unless the geology was particularly favorable but perhaps this is not a serious issue. The input of a hydrologist/geologist with expertise in this area would be interesting.

Now aside from whether the whole project would be cost effective (construction would complete just a major breakthrough in fusion power took place) large engineering projects like these do have a charm of their own don’t you think? The environmental costs could also be a lot more manageable than those for alternative piecemeal approaches like fracking (offshore drilling has its risks too).

You can look at the river basin map yourself. There is a watershed to the East and all water runs into the sea. There would be effects on local vegetation — spectacular ones as there are few brackish intertidal areas in the mountains — and some wells would be spoiled.

Spirit of Ireland have been trying to persuade 14 families in a valley between Carrick and Kilcar to leave their homes for this hare brained scheme, the idea being to supplement the intermittent energy from planned wind farms. I am sure it is outlined on the Spirit of Ireland website. Local ADs are all for it as the lure of dam building jobs will secure their re-election while local anglers are up in arms about the loss of a salmon river.

It is unlikely that the proposed project is cost effective.
Natural gas is not costly enough to make pumped water storage profitable.

The capital cost and operating cost of gas fueled generation make it very attractive. Gas plants go from stationary to 100% capacity in minutes they are the ideal standby power source.

There is a price point at which pumped water storage will be cost effective as the price of gas rises. At that price point nuclear power generation would have to be taken into consideration.

There are substantial energy losses both on the lifting and dropping of water, pump efficiency, generator efficiency, pipe friction.

Before laying out millions a small scale experimental project would make sense.

The economics are indeed poor. This follows from the following. The difference between the electricity price in the middle of night and the early evening is often 10 cents or more per kWh. If you could store electricity for 16 hours for 10 c/kWh, you’d be rich. Pumped hydro is an old technology. Yet, no one is building pumped hydro — either because they’re stupid, or because it costs more than 10 c/kWh.



“From the tables below, we estimated the capital cost of pumped ocean storage in WA to be $2500/kW capacity, assuming a 10 per cent discount rate over 40 years, 7 per cent additional cost for operating and maintaining seawater systems and a life of 80 years. Energy cost would be about 8.6c/kWh (from IPCC table below).”

Those are Australian costings for capital (ie almost made up), in AUD presumably.

Dinorwig doesn’t run for free either – but it, er, has a bit of spare capacity…


I did read the next sentence, and, shockingly, the one after that.

Having plucked that out of the ether for you and mickey, I think I said those were the capital costings. I think I also made a qualitative comment about historical tenancies and assumption laden character of capital costings.

Just from that article nobody can quite be sure what fecking currency they are even using, though the source mentioned for the figures gives a clue.

The bit about Dinorwig referred to non-capital costs., thinks break, need repairing and monitoring there.

I was attempting to be helpful since you brought up the question of costs of pumped storage.

Are you a Barcelona fan or something?


“Current economic policy can deliver a valley in Donegal devoid of people over a reasonably short period”

I would rather it delivered a valley devoid of some of the awful/eyesore bungalows scattered all over the place that many people have built in the last couple of decades. The chances of it getting rid of the midges in summertime though are nil.


“while local anglers are up in arms about the loss of a salmon river.”

And up in arms about the number of midges that bite you when fishing for salmon.

You may have guessed, I hate midges.

Then again, I’m not great fan of Donegal either. I just get forced to go there on holiday occassionally by Mrs PR Guy.

My only escape is to do a bit of fishing while I’m there and all I get is bitten to death by midges. It’s as bad as fishing in Scotland other than instead of being surrounded by punchy drunks (and midges), you’re threatened by extremely bored teenagers driving their cars with a death wish on narrow roads.

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