In response to the article published about 50 years of IWP&DC (January 1999, p15), I would like to give my views on the development of the water power industry. Less than 7% of the 92,000MW of hydro that is operational or under construction today had been installed before 1950. In fact, the real development of hydro power began only after the second world war. During the last 50 years, most of the advanced industrial countries have installed between 60-90% of their total hydro capacity.
Besides the development of this conventional source of energy, what I consider as one of the most important achievements of this last half-century is the development of pumped storage projects. The brilliant idea to absorb energy when it is cheapest while supplying it when it is really needed was applied on an industrial scale at the beginning of the 1920s. In France, for example, four units (25MVA each) were installed in 1930 by alstom for edf in a power station called La Noir in the Vosges mountains. In the 1960s a unique tidal power project was also constructed at the La Rance river on the north coast of France in Britanny. This power station can be used either in a pumping or turbine mode and certainly offers to its owner, EDF, a very high level of flexibility. With the advent of the nuclear industry in the 1960s this form of producing power became more and more attractive. It was possible to regulate the energy provided by the nuclear power plants while improving the stability of the grid and increasing the security of delivery for consumers.
At the dawn of the new millennium more than 100,000MW of power is already installed or is being installed in pumped storage power plants around the world. This type of energy production will certainly grow and will continue to interest hydro developers who want regulation, stability, security and profit.