The Truth About Pumped Hydro

Real Engineering

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    This video was created in partnership with Bill Gates, inspired by his new book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.” Find out more here:
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    Writer/Narrator: Brian McManus
    Editor: Dylan Hennessy
    Animator: Mike Ridolfi (
    Sound: Graham Haerther (
    Thumbnail: Simon Buckmaster forgottentowel

    Thank you to AP Archive for access to their archival footage.
    Music by Epidemic Sound:
    Thank you to my patreon supporters: Adam Flohr, Henning Basma, Hank Green, William Leu, Tristan Edwards, Ian Dundore, John & Becki Johnston. Nevin Spoljaric, Jason Clark, Thomas Barth, Johnny MacDonald, Stephen Foland, Alfred Holzheu, Abdulrahman Abdulaziz Binghaith, Brent Higgins, Dexter Appleberry, Alex Pavek, Marko Hirsch, Mikkel Johansen, Hibiyi Mori. Viktor Józsa, Ron Hochsprung

    Am Vor 12 Tage


    1. Gary Nelson

      Gates says nuclear is an essential part of the solution

    2. Weasle

      "Constant exports from war ravaged countries" uhm what? Did i miss something or are the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait definitely not war ravaged lol.

    3. Bob Adkins

      Excellent presentation! For hydro storage to be practical, there must be a large surplus of electricity produced, probably 40%. That takes room. Miles upon miles would littered with windmills, uninhabitable by man and animals. There must also be hills, which some areas simply don't have. Other than that, it's fine.

    4. Ian Cash

      Without recognising the scale of the challenge (storage), what hope is there of meeting it? This video is an honest effort to convey these figures, so shouldn't be faulted for being the bearer of difficult news. A recent article in New Scientist reports "Green energy in them thar hills" (27 Feb, p13), and how "...each 1000 megawatts of pumped hydro could replace 750 MW of power from a nuclear plant..." - not a single mention of the amount of PH storage available from this article! The source document was commissioned by SSE (which has no nuclear) and targets EDF's proposed Hinkley Point C. It estimates a total of between 30 and 90 GWh PHS potential in Great Britain - mostly Scotland and Wales - enough to match 'Point Cs 3.2 GW baseload output for at-most 28 hours. Given the UK has a baseload (minimum continuous level) of ~40 GW in winter, and ~20 GW in summer, why not target one of its (SSEs) own gas-fired fossil plants rather than a nuclear facility which is already zero carbon? The total coal oil and gas (primary energy) consumed in the UK is equivalent to 200 GW-years per year (true in both 2018 and 2019). We cannot afford to ignore green baseload solutions on ideological grounds!

    5. IcePee

      Some other types of pumped hydro: - This solves the problem with unsuitable land features. - is a way to use waves to pump water to a top reservoir, for later conversion to electricity.

    6. Aryeh Oser

      Hey, I love your videos! can you do a video on the Russian sputnik?

    7. PolskaWalczaca

      What is its efficiency when everything FREZES?

    8. Colin Spencer

      Utter nonsense. Without fossil fuels, billions of people will be denied advancement and healthier lifestyles. India is a classic example. China as well.

    9. Luke Rediger

      Yeah, that's not feasible. Build like 3-4 Candu Nuclear reactors for 4.8-6.4 GW and use off peak surplus to carbon capture and synthesize petrol from atmospheric CO2. If you accept nuclear is the way forward, it can be done in under 5 years. The key is getting the anti nuclear nutters out of government that tie everything up with red tape and spread lies about how dangerous it is to scare people away from the only source of power that has a guaranteed likelihood to get us off fossil fuels.

    10. Anders Fagerström

      I will read the book. The problem thou is that when Bill Gates pushes his book now, through all of you youtubers, it becomes the truth. End of discussion. Climate change is not climate disaster. The disaster story has been pushed for half a decade now. First the ice age version then the heat wave version. Always with the "we have to do something drastic now" solution. Nothing happened and there is no catastrophe. It is almost irritating that the temperature is close to rock steady on an average. The scare and fear in people is real but the agenda is political. The book should be read with open eyes, that it is activism by the richest man on earth. The IPCC for example only exists because of an average temperature rise of the planet. If there is none, does anyone think this UN-institution will just say -O we were wrong -thanks for the attention? I hope we will be able to question and monitor their data in the future. As of now it is almost a crime to be sceptical wanting the details. My thoughts are that a healthy environment is crucial but the man made climate change is BS, that has become a religion that can't be questioned. Keep up the good work -Real Engineering.



    12. Mike Hunt

      Hate to break it to ya, but the majority of these so called green technologies for energy generation so far create more waste and environmental damage by converting fossil fuels into their products than the actual burning of the fossil fuels themselves. Not only that, but the actual output BTU’s per unit of measure is also so far significantly worse than the direct consumption of the fuels used to make them... Ever considered this angle? DIDNT think so.

    13. r pfeiffa

      So...what are the side effects of producing these renewable energy sources? Are they actually greater than that of coal or less? Do you actually know or are you about to just guess?

      1. r pfeiffa

        @BlueMe Thetys No actual objection really, i'm just wondering why renewable energy is getting pushed so hard when in reality there's not much of a difference in terms of waste or pollution when it comes down to it. I guess I feel like there's a hidden motive to get the world up and running on renewable.

      2. BlueMe Thetys

        I mean one is a sustenable energy source, while the other is just "burn dead animals lol". Setting up solar energy plants today does pollute a bunch, with the production process and the trash we're left with after their life cycle ends, but this isn't something we can't remedy. Companies that recycle solar panels are springing up. What's your actual objection?

    14. PlatinumRacing

      Make a video to explain the potential uses of Time Crystals!

    15. TL Winslow

      How many birds to the blades eat per day?

      1. Real Engineering

        Well considering this is buried underground, probably about 1 million.

    16. Benjai

      At a fraction of the cost of... what? NatGas is cheaper, Nuclear is safer AND cheaper. Both have smaller footprints. This is probably the fastest I’ve had to disagree with one your videos. Feels bad man.

    17. Meada Kazuya

      Hmmm I kinda wanna see a video on Texas blackouts and how they weren't able to keep the power for the state

    18. Les Ross Planning

      Excellent video - thank you

    19. steve becker

      The first minute of the video was chock full of "lying with statistics. when you talk about subsidies. Renewable receive 28% of what fossil fuels receive. Do they produce 28% of the energy we receive? The comparison should be between Terrawatts of power verse the amount of subsidy. When you claim renewables are the cheapest form of energy, you are not counting the cost of power storage in that calculation. The cost of power storage is included in fossil fuels cost. Additionally, if renewables are the cheapest energy why is Germany, the country with the most renewables, paying the highest cost for electricity in the free world.

    20. Duane Nielsen

      When I look at the size of these mega scale storage projects. I sometimes wonder if giving up on the idea of a grid that provides "base load" power is the way to go. If consumer systems were designed instead with intermittent power in mind. Storage could be forced to the edge of the grid, where power is consumed.

    21. Tyler M.

      Man, your videos are always SO great

    22. John Thomas

      So, how did that wind and solar thing work out for Texas?

    23. Mason Martinez

      What about bad weather.. Texas has a lot of renewable energy and their infrastructure was extremely vulnerable to elements.

    24. joseph bodden

      I hope the obvious resources provided by tide pool generators are not overlooked... incoming tide runs through turbines, when full, the outgoing tide and draining the tide pools through the same turbine generators also generates electricity. Very large pools can be easily constructed by merely damming the opening to coves...

    25. Phil Timmons

      From 10 to 11 minutes. Your math looks flawed? You are assuming that there must be an entire stand-by for the Max Peak, all the time? Max Peak is only a small amount of the time, and can be load-time-shifted, for a much lower peak. As more renewables come on line, the fossil supplies will become more and more surplus, as well.

    26. Jo-Jo bighiker

      Renewables hi-tech jobs means "Installer-Tech", like those TV Dish Installer -Techs. Great...

    27. Hugo

      can you skip the propaganda next time

      1. Hugo

        @Finn Greene you see yet you are blind

      2. Finn Greene

        What propaganda?

    28. Stan Kossovskiy

      13:30 For the cost of 950 Mil and power of 292 MW 8:29 not including the cost of wind turbines and other power sources will be the same as 9 Billion for 2 GW of a modern nuclear power plant. Probably better to go nuclear.

    29. Allen Kwong

      The absorbed pakistan kinetically shrug because organ pathohistologically analyse in a warlike cough. wild, hilarious license

    30. whatsuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

      Never heard someone pronounce height that way lol. Great video as always. Learn how to hunt and farm btw. Humanity wont go extinct but the coming chaos will lead to disruption in the supply chain and while civliazation won't go back to the stone age or even a hybrid of now and the 1900s not everywhere will stay at our current tech level

    31. whatsuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

      It's going to send the world into chaos even if we put a bigger than WW2 style effort into transition which is why we need to do it now so we can lessen he damage and set up infrastructure that allows for the survival of civilization

    32. IlIllIIlllIIllIIIll

      We don't understand how the sun works. Climate change is a scam. Bill gates takes a private jet BTW I'm happy as a fellow Irishman that your channel has grown so much over the years.

    33. caydencarrico

      80% efficiency seems so generous, it's disingenuous. The generator alone is 80% efficient but that's not including the efficiency of the motor pumping water into the reservoir and the various mechanical losses such as head loss from the water moving in and out of the reservoir.

    34. Hope4Today9 Now

      The burning of natural gas to produce electricity is not an issue!!! The burning of natural gas as a waste product certainly IS.

    35. Obsidian Nebula

      There are pros and cons with everthing. Something tells me you use way more power to pump all that water up than you make on it's way down. This solution is a capacitor that has many flaws. I feel like the way better solution would be a flywheel. Recent flywheel technology have progressed significantly. They cost less, take far less space compared to lakes, can work for longer that 5 hours and you can have a lot of them one next to another. While I like wind power the most, I'm sure the nuclear, fission or fusion, is most stable and efficient solution of them all. There are massive problems with renewables. Solar panels are just 20% efficient and windmills are poorly constructed and prone to damage (especially wings/ blades). Nothing's ever perfect..

    36. Snuggle093

      Have you considered making a video on biomethane as a storage option? It's being pursued actively in my home country (Denmark) as a way to use the existing gas grid as a storage option for peak load hours, that also contributes to emission reductions in agriculture. Main purpose is to use it for industry and transport - but storage option is an important secondary benefit.

    37. starwarsnerd95

      I was under the impression that flywheels would be a great way to store energy near cities , they could potentially be installed in or near utility tunnels underground, nobodu would ever see them, they are relatively compact and don't have any requirements that they need to be near anything

    38. Ebani

      You forgot to thank the person to give us the pumped hydro technology, who also happens to be the person to bring us into the electricity era: Nikola Tesla.

    39. LokitheTrickster

      I'd like to see a video exploring the viability of synthetic natural gas as a storage medium. More stable than H2 and smaller storage volume

    40. Brad Jordan

      Wind is a massive eyesore. Nuke desalination pump to inland hydro for irrigation is the way.

    41. IRON60 BITCH

      Windmills are currently killing approximately 100 million birds a year and the answer to that no one talks about it give me an oil spill and all you see your pictures of birds covered in oil when are you going to get honest

    42. IRON60 BITCH

      The taxes that are placed on power produced by fossil fuel Dwarf alternate energy in some cases there is no taxes taken at the beginning and or the delivery point of alternate energy your initial statement out of the box is a fucking lie if you can’t be honest just laying out the numbers why should anything else said going forward be trusted I think fossil fuels I’m at the peak of their efficiency and we need to go somewhere else but if you’re going to bass moving on or why I’m out

    43. IRON60 BITCH

      Weather ?????????

    44. Leon MOREL

      Renewables aren't cheap because they are subsidized. Renewables are cheap because we use fossil fuel powered industries and transport to produce them. Also, i think it wouod be interesting to compare fossil and renewable subsidies with regard to how much energy they produce. Last tipe I checked, the world mainly runs on fossil fuels which means that the subsidies per kilowatt-hour are lower no? That being said, i agree renewables still are crucial to fighting climate change along with nuclear, and we really need to phase fossil fuel out of our energy production for sure.

    45. Igor Reznik

      Explain that to Arizona people how good green energy is

    46. JoeL landry

      As an engineer myself I don't understand why a channel claiming to be "real engineering" seems to believe that Climate change is a "real" issue when past data shows worst climate change than in resent times. It seems to me like these days we are all brainwashed into spending massive amounts of money on the absolute worst technologies for improving the environment rather than sound science, I mean engineering should be real science not based the New York Times and their ideas of what is best...that's a slippery slope.

    47. mrmatalino

      TD. Tired of this shit. Unsubscribed.

    48. The Hanging Tree

      Wow. The moment you realise Bill Gates sponsors these high production videos. Goodbye.

    49. Blue Falcons Suck

      Try building ANY of these without fossil fuels or petroleum products... you cant. The propaganda of this video is enormous and its "promises" are pure BS.

    50. suzanne marchetti

      Didn't here you say how much energy is used to pump back to the upper reservoir? It doesn't get back up there by itself......

    51. Phantom Apprentice

      That's great except for the damage to avian lifeforms.

    52. Haven Oppelt

      Why not build them over the ocean and use the ocean itself as the lower? Then you loose no land but get access to populated areas. It also gives unlimited power storage.

    53. tamarin

      the voice reminds me of a youtuber irishman

    54. Dan M

      I thought you are an engineer... Your take on subsidies convinced me otherwise.

    55. brillo9

      Great video and information. From working in the hydro industry, it's great to see this kind of useful information shared! Thank you!

    56. TheRoadfarmer

      If there was no talk of climate change wind and solar generation would still be lagging behind. It's not cheaper. If it were electric utilities would be demolishing coal plants and building towers non stop. Is it the future? Probably. Is it cheaper? No. There are huge costs. They don't last forever. And they aren't being recycled into newer wind/solar units

    57. ADAM WAITE

      This video fails to mention the reality of hydro storage. Take Lake Shasta in northern California for example. Here you have a massive reservoir but the power house is not used for generating electricity, the dam is only used for flood control. Because it's too expensive and inefficient to turn on and off the generators as needed. Wind and solar will NEVER completely replace other forms of power generation.

    58. Jon Tingvold

      This video makes me sad that my country, Norway, has not build more power cables to the continent. We have 87 TWh of hydro storage capacity, enough to storage all of the EU's and UK's electricity consumption for 1.6 weeks.

    59. John Dowling

      What a load of cobblers. There is no scientific evidence that there is anything like a climate "crisis", intermittent, unreliable and expensive windmills lead to energy grid instability, and storage doubles the cost! To maintain reliable power that modern society needs look no further than nuclear power. Indeed, the article shows very well how expensive and impractical is weather dependent energy.

    60. Aesma

      Pumped hydro has downsides but I'm surprised there aren't at least a couple of projects under construction in every country developing renewable energy. You mentioned using ocean water and that would be great, but from what I believe and can find, high pressure, high speed salt water is extremely corrosive.

    61. JFK Lincoln

      Too many lies in this video.


      Why lie? Why make an absurd statement like renewable energy is cheaper? And more dependable? What a joke. I can light a fire anytime. I can't run a windmill or solar panel anytime. Renewable energy is finally a viable replacement, but it ain't cheaper and more dependable. Period.

    63. Louis DROUARD

      Or you just build nuclear powerplants, it is cheaper more effective, less polluting (therefore less lethal), faster to implement and does not require any further improvement since the technology is already mature (no grid adaptation, no storage, etc.) If sun and wind, things that have been known and used for thousands of year were that great, I wonder why we ever felt the need to switch to fossile fuel. Where are our windmills and sun dryers we used the last two thousands years ? Yeah, reduction and nuclear. Edit : and hydro

    64. Ryan Allister

      these thumbnails are ridiculous. They are art pieces in and of itself. Does anyone know the name of the graphic artist?

    65. Alex Faring

      " our battle against climate change..." You are funny. You may as well fight the day and night circle.

    66. Kenlwallace

      Almost one third of greenhouse gasses are from industrial heating which electricity is not suited to provide, however green it may be. Hydrogen and Molten salt (walk-away/safe, almost no waste) Nuclear can do it using small safe reactors. More resources needs to go into MSRs or china will have it first as they are spending billions on it now.

    67. Damalia Marsi

      I like going to the solar plants in the deserts and watch the birds fry in mid air, or sometime I go to the windmills and watch birds freaking explode as they fly into the wind mill blades. They actually call the burning birds at the solar plant streamers. Pretty funny to watch. Even watched a burning bird start a small grass fire. Smelled like bbq chicken and burnt feathers. Pretty messed up that if I point a gun at an endangered avian I go to jail, but windmills wack thousands out of the air every month, and no one says a word. The world is a comedy, love it.

    68. Benjamin Elverson

      Brian, I just wanted to say thank you so much for all the hard work and effort you put into these videos. I'm currently a freshman undergraduate mechanical engineer and I have been watching your channel for years now. Your videos have given me so much inspiration and make me proud to know that I will one day call myself an engineer. The incredible achievements of these people absolutely astound me and fill me with so much passion to follow in their footsteps. Thank you for introducing me to so many amazing ideas and for helping me to see what I could become someday. I give you my truly best wishes and I hope that you continue with this channel and inspire more and more engineers after me. This is Real Engineering!

    69. Jordan Wanberg

      go Boring Company!

    70. Ben Coad

      or we could simply go molten salt reactors and replace all our energy needs and not just electricity with its high heat reactors, like making fresh water, liquid fuels, fertilizers and other high heat needed chemicals/reactions.

    71. R O M C H O M P A

      renewables are a misnomer, they arent renewable when solar loses 20% efficiency, and the solar cells need to be built from rare earth materials, and take up so much land, and then dont work when it snows or the sun doesnt shine, but how about we spray particulates to block the sun like gill bates wants to do? great plan.

    72. Etyere Petyere

      Not true ! Fossil fuel vs "renewable" subsidies . Since so called renewables are made with fossil fuels second they deliver almost nothing in capacity compared to fossil fuels . This individual is mistaken and misleads people

    73. michael hart

      Total fail from the get go. Who told you your "facts" about subsidies for fossil fuels? The usual green lie is to pretend that normal accounting practices allowing for capital investment to be offset against taxes is somehow a subsidy unique to the fossil fuel industry. Every industry on the planet gets the same treatment. If you aren't a baby and you grew up in the UK you would know that the revenues from North Sea oil kept the country afloat in the 1980's. It was what allowed Thatcher to smash the Trade Unions and support massive payments from the state to support the unemployed. The oil industry subsidizes governments, not the other way round. Go away and study a bit of accountancy.

    74. Stan Sorscher

      Why not use rocks instead of water? The gravitational energy would be extracted with gears instead of turbines. The rocks never wear out, which is one plus, and lots of rock was produced digging the tunnel and power chambers.

    75. Kingtad1136

      At the cost of $1B for 230MW per 6 hour storage facility, Ireland may as well just build a new 4 1000MW reactor nuclear power station to provide enough base load.

    76. Itsall Good

      Sounds like a little bit of fear porn. The planet will do what's going to do regardless what we do. It's not just the planet heating up it's the entire galaxy and no green technology is going to stop that.

      1. ForeseenParadox

        I've never seen something more incorrect than this.

    77. Zyron


    78. John Arizona

      How about pumped hydro power without the pump? SEE: The World's Most Powerful Tidal Current: the Saltstraumen Maelstrom These can be manmade, ya know.

    79. Salty Tanky McTriggered'n

      "How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.” Stepp 1: Expropriate and redistribute Bill Gates' fortune . . .

    80. N3RV0CK

      Cheaper and cleaner? Lol. Just go ahead and ignore all the rear metals you are pulling out of the earth to make the solar panels and wind turbines. At least the strip mining industry will boom. Also the excavators and factories to make the green energy solar panel and turbines run on the standard grid meaning coal and fossil fuels. I don't see us running a Bagger 288 on solar energy. We just don't have the technology.

    81. Signtist

      Could you tell me what the carbon "cost" of the plant was? It would be interesting to know when it (did or) will pay back the energy used to create build, elsewise the so called "clean nuclear" solution still seems like the most logical and underutilized energy source. Perhaps you would consider a comparison video based on current knowledge.

    82. Srsykes

      What happened in Texas with all their wind turbines and solar farms????

    83. Kyle Broflovski

      Your calculations didn’t account for the power to pump it up as that would take more than you get out. Then you don’t just need to generate the average, you need to compensate for low wind when the power generation is really low for wind for several days

    84. Frank Harris

      Bill Gates. That is the kiss of death for your video man.

    85. Squirrel

      Great video thanks. Can you do a similar video of wind to Hydrogen storage. Particularly with regards to losses and overall efficiency

    86. ShiMo Wu

      learned a lot

    87. Mark Fernandes

      All good stuff but Nuclear Nuclear Nuclear! We need new Nuclear as a big part of the "holistic" solution. Everyone knows about solar, wind and the storage problem, so why not focus on the thing that gets almost no attention but solves for most of the headaches? Seriously RE, is there a reason you shy away from Nuclear as a topic? Do you or do you not support nuclear? (SMR MSR Gen 4 etc) Do you not see that these technologies are part of the holistic future that you say is needed?

    88. Erik Preston

      Climate change, what a fraud.

    89. -V-

      Nuclear as a stopgap to fusion is by far the best solution. High output, minimal impact on the surrounding environment, and doesn't require a battery that has to make up for it. The life-cycle carbon output of nuclear power is lower than solar and hydro. This technology is cool, but is unfortunately the consequence of unstable power generation.

    90. EricssonB


    91. The Hypocrite

      Is it true that renewables are now cheaper to make than fossil fuels? If so then in 3rd world countries, they might use renewables as their electricity source of energy. They are still developing their economies but the problem is that they might use fossil fuels to meet their evergrowing energy demand... If the renewables are truly cheaper to use than fossil fuels then we might actually have a bright future

    92. The Legacy

      I'm surprised we don't see more electrolysis as a means to store power. Converting water to hydrogen the store energy would be a great alternative to these massive construction projects, I would imagine.

    93. EdgyNumber1

      Why isn't Ireland developing tidal battery storage? (Storage of water at high tide, release for power generation at low tide)

    94. mafarmerga

      This looks a lot like the New Zealand manapouri power station

    95. mafarmerga

      Can you please don one on liquefied air as an energy storage system. This could be done anywhere, not just where there is water and topography.

    96. Blake Mason

      Way to manipulate data 00:35. Why don't you normalize this to MWh produced?

    97. Kevin Grealish

      Height not Heith.

    98. Elrod W

      Wind power works - except when the wind isn't blowing, and when you don't mind chopping up birds and bats, and when you find neighbors who don't mind the huge intrusive and unattractive installation in their backyard.

    99. Nikolaus Argetsinger

      I'd like to say that while renewable energy is great and all and is cheap it is not clean by any means no more than coal and I don't mean by it doesn't produce emissions it does not one of the issues is the rare earth metals that are highly toxic to humans and the environment if not handled properly we've also not really solved the end of life on these products as well they've got about a 20-year time period and most of the pieces are not recyclable either because they're too large and the example of wind turbines or the majority of the parts are just unrecyclable or unusable after that and they are toxic now I'm not saying that we should just get rid of renewables they do have their place but the fact is it goes back to the old argument the wind stops blowing and the sun stops shining so how do we take care of that well we burn fossil fuels to help pick up the slack so renewables until we have large grid power storage are not actually clean because they come with fossil fuels to help during the low times and there are some places where renewables are not realistic like the Appalachians of Kentucky there are too many mountains too many trees to reliably have any kind of renewable infrastructure that's why they've depended on coal for more than a century so what are we going to do dig up the mountains and cut down all the trees to put in more solar panels and wind farms that kind of sounds like we're doing more harm than good I'd also like to say that for solar panels it takes twice the space of a nuclear reactor to reduce the same amount of power and not as reliably when would probably be our best choice but we also need to be very careful about where we put it and how we reuse it at the end of its life

    100. Herman Martin

      Pity about the Bill gates bit....(