Pumped hydro facilities are back in trend as utility-scale energy storage solutions attain critical value.

FREMONT, CA: The energy industry is changing rapidly. While the industry prioritizes the optimization of energy generation from renewable sources like wind and solar, delving into storage solutions that can solve the problem of reliability is gaining equal importance. When both these aspects converge, renewable energy will achieve its true potential and find its way into the grid. While battery-based storage solutions have advanced in recent times to provide enhanced storage at competitive prices, attaining large scale energy storage is still difficult. This has resulted in energy providers turning to the pumped hydro option. Pumped hydro storage has been around for decades now, but the method has attained renewed relevance, thanks to the changing energy dynamics.

One of the factors that is promoting the case of pumped hydro is that it is a bulk storage tactic that can help turn the liabilities associated with solar and wind into advantages. Solar and wind energy producers are looking for ways to channel their production into the grid. But the periodic nature of solar and the fluctuations associated with wind make these sources inconsistent and unreliable for the grid. When sufficient storage capabilities are deployed, it is possible to stock up on the surplus energy and supply it to the grid at peak hours.  

With pumped hydro storage facilities, water from lower altitudes can be pumped to a reservoir present at higher altitudes using pumps that run on wind and solar energy. Thus, solar and wind are converted into an alternative form and stored. The water can then flow downhill through turbines to produce and supply electricity to the grid. Thus, a pumped storage facility can be instrumental in the grid-integration of solar and wind energy.   

According to an article published in CleanTechnica, the US is considering increasing its investment in developing pumped water storage facilities. The article also quotes the National Hydropower Association by mentioning that around 97 percent of utility-scale energy storage in the US is through pumped hydro. Thus, it is apparent that pumped hydro presents many exciting possibilities to the energy sector in the current times.

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