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This wacky Alpine hydropower plant is beautiful

Two lakes separated by a huge cliff

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In the Alps, high above the Swiss town of Linthal, sits an odd-looking hydropower plant that somehow manages to be both useful — and beautiful.

The plant's wacky configuration is key to its success. To generate and store electricity, plant workers open steel valves that run through the mountains. This lets water run between two mountain lakes, which are separated by a cliff that measures 2,000 feet, according to General Electric. As this happens, the water runs through four GE pump turbines that turn generators, which converts energy from the falling water into electricity. When the demand for electricity goes down, the plant pumps the water back up to the higher lake, which sits 8,100 feet above sea level. Because of this, the system acts like a "giant battery" that's "ready to be used again when needed," Maryse François, the hydrotechnology leader at GE Renewable Energy, said in a statement.

This kind of hydropower plant isn't exactly new — they're referred to as "pumped storage" — but it's certainly the first time that I've wanted to call one "pretty." Check out some awesome pictures of the plant below.

Linthal hydropower plant


The power plant is located above a valley. These two lakes at the bottom of the valley are only used to store water. (GE Reports/Tomas Kellner)