Thank you to everyone who entered The Oak and Toad’s monthly prize draw.
Third prize this month was a box of shortbread fingers from Dinorwig Pumped Storage Power Station in North Wales. The image on the box depicts the interior of the turbine hall, Europe’s largest manmade cavern; on the reverse is some information about Dinorwig.
Saturday 30th May 2009, 9.45pm, North Wales. A slate grey sky hangs low over the town of Llanberis depositing a misty, damp rain. Only the lower slopes of the mountains are visible beneath the cloud as night falls. The flicker of TV screens are still visible in those households who are too glued to have yet drawn the blinds. Between the town and the mountains, the waters of Llyn Peris lie still, transformed into the sublime by JMW Turner in his depiction of Dolbardarn Castle, which watches over the lake – TV screens perhaps visible through binoculars from the parapet. It’s the final of Britain’s Got Talent, and an unlikely woman from Blackburn with a belting mezzo-soprano called Susan Boyle is up against a street dance troupe called Diversity. The final advert break has just finished and this is the moment the winner of series three is announced. 19 million people are watching.
9.50pm, Wokingham, Bershire.
The National Grid control centre have been watching the rise and fall of national electricity demand over the course of BGT and are on the phone to Dinorwig pumped-storage facility in Llanberis. When the winner is announced, millions of people will stand up from the sofa and head to the kitchen. Dinorwig is unique in its ability to provide rapid-response supply to the grid. Coal and nuclear stations can take days to come online. Dinorwig can provide 1,320 MW within 11 seconds – more power than supplied either by Sizewell B or the Cross-Channel DC Interconnector – and sustain this for over 6 hours.
Diversity are announced as the winner and within the next three minutes the grid experiences an 850 MW pick-up, amounting to a 3% increase in national demand. Dinorwig, having been primed by the national grid has already three, 275MW turbines spinning ‘in air’, synchronised to the grid at 500rpm, and, as Diversity take to the stage to perform as winners, six, 16 tonne hydraulic arms are lifted on no. 1, 2 and 3 turbines, sending 195 cubic metres of water per second through the turbines. Air is displaced, and within 5 seconds 800MW have been added to the national capacity. The waters of Llyn Peris remain still, satisfying both national park planning conditions which preclude the emergence of white water in the tail race, and Turner’s picturesque scenography. Susan might have taken it hard, but the National Grid is still running within a frequency tolerance of 49.5 and 50.5Hz. It’s time for a cup of tea and a piece of shortbread.