Global forum highlights urgent need for pumped storage hydropower

Posted: November 5, 2020 by oldbrew in Energy, government
Tags: , ,

China has invested heavily in pumped storage in recent decades. But the worldwide difficulty is clear: ‘Outside China, the world’s largest pumped storage producer, year-on-year installed capacity growth has been just 1.5% since 2014.’ Developed countries have usually already taken advantage of many of their best locations for such projects, so rapidly increasing existing capacity is highly problematic for them. Once again we see the folly of aiming to rely heavily on intermittent and/or weather-dependent renewables for power generation. Brace for power outages.
– – –
The International Hydropower Association (IHA) and the US Department of Energy (DOE) are leading the International Forum on Pumped Storage Hydropower this week, reports PEI.

The forum is a global, multi-stakeholder initiative of 11 governments and more than 60 organisations aimed at addressing the urgent need for clean and reliable energy storage.

Premiered on 3 November 2020, the week-long forum brings together the governments of the USA, Austria, Brazil, Estonia, Greece, India, Indonesia, Israel, Morocco, Norway and Switzerland, as well as international financial institutions, non-profit organisations and leading energy companies such as EDF, GE Renewable Energy, Voith and Hydro Tasmania.

Keynote speaker and former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged governments and industry to move quickly to develop projects at the scale needed to support the rapid roll-out of variable renewables.

“I believe we urgently need to raise awareness of pumped hydro and its vital role in the clean energy transition. This will require the industry to have a higher profile with the goal of engaging governments and heads of government to make it happen,” he said.

“We have to get going. [Wind and solar power] can be built in months, but pumped hydro takes several years. Pumped hydro can provide short term storage and load following, as can batteries. But its real comparative advantage is that with sufficient scale in water and elevation it can provide days or even weeks of energy storage,” added Turnbull.

Hydropower technologies

Speaking at the event, Daniel R Simmons, assistant secretary for the US DOE’s office of energy efficiency and renewable energy, said: “We still need to have an electric grid which is incredibly reliable and pumped storage hydropower contributes greatly to this.

“We recognise with hydropower and with PSH (pumped storage hydropower) that there needs to be international collaboration… because the challenges are very similar. For example, we want to recognise the XFLEX HYDRO project where more than a dozen partners have come together to demonstrate new hydropower technologies at locations across Europe.”

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), 14,000GW of additional variable wind and solar capacity is needed by 2050 to meet the aims of the Paris Agreement, and substantial levels of new investment in long-duration, low-carbon energy storage will be required to meet expected demand.

Pumped storage hydropower, also known as ‘the world’s water battery’ is a flexible, clean, dispatchable source of electricity. It is needed to facilitate increasing quantities of variable renewables, which require a back-up to ensure the stability of power systems.

IRENA has stated that global pumped storage hydropower capacity will need to double from nearly 160 GW today to 325GW over the next 30 years, to limit the rise in global temperatures to below 2 degree Celsius.

Pumped storage hydropower (PSH) development, however, remains stagnant in many markets. Outside China, the world’s largest pumped storage producer, year-on-year installed capacity growth has been just 1.5% since 2014.

Full report here.
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Also from the report:
The World Bank’s Dr Demetrios Papathanasiou, global director of energy and extractives said: “Pumped storage hydropower is the only renewable option that can currently produce commercially viable balancing power to integrate variable renewable technologies at-scale.” [bold added]

  1. Reblogged this on The Most Revolutionary Act and commented:
    Pumped storage hydropower, also known as ‘the world’s water battery’ is a flexible, clean, dispatchable source of electricity. It is needed to facilitate increasing quantities of variable renewables, which require a back-up to ensure the stability of power systems.

  2. JohnM says:

    Agreed, Stuart, but it is very expensive and sites are not easily found. Also NIMByism will fight tooth and nail to oppose it as I remember when I lived in Scotland.

  3. spetzer86 says:

    Well, here in the USA, Denver is pretty high up. Given how Colorado voted, I’ll offer up Denver as the next pumped hydro location.

  4. Graeme No.3 says:

    Pumped storage is very expensive. Turnbull wished the Snowy2 scheme on Australia to boost the grid stability. It was supposed to cost 2 billion Aus dollars but that is now 5 billion and rising. There are some who think it will end at around 11 billion. That for 2 hours capacity assuming that there isn’t a drought and farmers don’t mind not getting any irrigation water which they have paid for.

    Not counting the 6 billion spent buying out the 2 States investment to reduce opposition: which was promptly spent by the politicians in power (both major parties) to get reelected.

  5. cognog2 says:

    These expensive pumped hydro schemes wouldn’t be necessary if we did not have all those wind and solar facilities cluttering up the landscape.

  6. ivan says:

    There are several glaring problems with pumped hydro as backup for unreliables that all those proposing such schemes seem to forget.

    a) the cost/benefit analysis is usually negative in most cases but they rely on ideology to override that (see Graeme No.3 comment re Australia snowy2 costs).
    b) when running on unreliable electricity where does the power come from to pump the water up the hill?
    c) pumped hydro units are only good for fill in until real power generators can come on line.

    Apart from those three things there is the problem of where to put the complete system – it doesn’t work if you don’t have nice hills or mountains where you want the short term power.

  7. delta9369 says:

    Graeme No.3 – Agreed Snowy 2 is a complete waste. It is supposed to have 2GW capacity, the overall turn around efficiency at full power is 72% with two way transmission losses after that. So in any day, if it provided power for 10 hours it would take 14 hours to pump and refill the reservoirs.

    And here’s the problem that I’ve posed to my electrical engineering colleagues to which there is no feasible answer. What is the control algorithm to operate it? When to pump and when to deliver power?

    Well presumably it would be needed to deliver power when there is no “renewable” energy available on the grid and it should pump when there is surplus “renewable” energy. Or another alternative is to use the price on the electricity grid. Either alternative won’t work. There are many times in the Australian system when there is little to no renewable energy and certainly insufficient for there to have been excess to have pumped up hydro storage prior to the fall in renewable output. It’s just not possible to match a varying input power (renewables) to fill a storage system with a fixed amount of storage in turn to deliver 71% of the input energy to fill an indeterminate energy shortfall on the grid. The indeterminate energy shortage on the grid both in time and quantity is a result of severe shortfalls in renewable energy that occurs across the entire Australian grid – which for overseas readers is vast. There are times when there is no wind across the nation and of course there’s no solar power during the day night or when there are clouds.

    Eventually with these schemes you would run out or water. Simply it’s not possible to run and electricity grid on wind and sunshine.

    [mod] amended ‘day’ to ‘night’

  8. oldbrew says:

    Pumped hydro is storage. It uses more electricity than it delivers, and that input has to come from the national grid.

    A few countries have the right geography for it, like Norway and New Zealand, but the majority are not so well placed, even if they can afford it. Useful for spikes in demand or unplanned outages, but useless for days or more of low wind speeds, which do happen e.g. this week in the UK.

  9. saighdear says:

    NIMBI ‘s will be leaking out of the ground then?

  10. oldbrew says:

    Dinorwig pumped hydro, Wales (opened in 1984)

    The scheme can supply a maximum power of 1,728-megawatt (2,317,000 hp) and has a storage capacity of around 9.1 GWh (33 TJ).
    . . .
    ..studies suggest that revenue from sales alone, even at peak prices, does not warrant the initial investment; projections for similar projects indicate a payback time of up to forty years. Additionally, however, Dinorwig PHES receives a steady income for maintaining a permanent on-call capacity for urgent frequency regulation; in 2016 this was approximately £10.8 million.
    . . .
    Twelve million tonnes (12,000,000 long tons; 13,000,000 short tons) of rock had to be moved from inside the mountain.
    . . .
    The power station comprises 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) of tunnels, one million tons of concrete, 200,000 tons of cement and 4,500 tons of steel.
    . . .
    Once running, at full flow, the station can provide power for up to six hours before running out of water.
    – – –
    How many more on that scale will ever get built?

  11. Chaswarnertoo says:

    Dinorweg is amazing, but it ain’t a power station.

  12. oldbrew says:

    UK’s ‘largest battery energy storage system’ is now operational
    November 6, 2020

    The UK now boasts around 1GW installed battery storage capacity and the market needs further growth to facilitate a net zero energy system.
    – – –
    ‘Boasts’ 🤣

    ‘further growth’ – yes, a few tens of GW might be useful — but the cost would be ridiculous, and the power would still have to come from somewhere.

    All storage systems run out of juice quite quickly, and that’s your lot. No continuous supply of electricity.

  13. Graeme No.3 says:

    “recharging pumped storage” is best done for about 5 hours or more. That fits in nicely with the lower demand overnight when running reliable generation, and allows a charged scheme to output when demand is highest; but how can you judge just when there will be enough excess output by renewables for the right length of time?
    Snowy2 relies on recycling water within the Snowy River scheme, but that was mostly a diversion of ‘wasted water’ to inland irrigation. Since then the Greens have been successful in getting water running back down the Snowy river to the ocean. So what happens if there is a drought? a not unknown situation in Australia; would the Greens forgo the ‘environmental’ discharges to the ocean? Would the pumped storage be suspended to keep the farmers going? Would the financial “wizards” who “own” a substantial share of the water supply NOT increase the price? Fortunately we are having a wet year so the voters aren’t too unhappy.
    Then there is the matter of arbitrage as the Snowy Authority has published (in small print) that it would require selling electricity from pumped storage at $40 per MWh over the buying price to break even. No problem, renewables are the cheapest source of (excuse me! couldn’t hear over the noise of pigs flying past) so wholesale price won’t go up.
    And some people have drawn scurrilous conclusions from the fact that that Turnbull’s son was then a large investor in wind energy.

  14. Graeme No.3 says:

    My memory – no doubt feeble – says that even Norway has had 2 years in (about) the last 13 where output had to be rationed because of reduced rainfall. Possibly a rare event and caused by Global Warming, or the extra demand by Germany and Denmark to stabilise their renewables.
    Many years ago I spent a few summer days in Bergen, quite enjoyable although I noticed on the first day that all the young women were wearing rainboots. I suggested (knowing of the rivalry between cities) to the hotel manager that “they told me in Oslo that it rains 75% of the time in Bergen” He exploded “that’s typical of those (people) in Oslo, always putting Bergen down. I’m not a native of Bergen but from 35 years experience here I can say that it rains far more often than that”.

  15. oldbrew says:

    The UK is tapping into Norse hydro power, should be open next year at a cost of €2 billion (with a ‘b’).
    – – –
    But it’s being built by Prysmian (Italian), whose Western Link from Scotland to north Wales is a bit of a disaster so far. And the link to Norway will be the longest HVDC cable system in the world.

  16. Graeme No.3 says:

    The assumptions being that there will always be enough rain (as I am informed that Norway has no pumped storage) and that the UK will continue on its lunatic policy for electricity i.e. reduced generation and vastly more usage.

  17. oldbrew says:

    Europe urgently needs to scale energy storage, says Eurelectric
    October 9, 2020
    – – –
    Urgent – so they’re not planning too well, are they?
    = = =
    Pumped Hydropower The Green Battery
    9 May 2019

    Energy storage systems are the key to meeting Europe’s renewables targets, Robert Williams reports.
    – – –
    But you have to have something to store first. Intermittent unreliables won’t always fit the bill, by definition. Especially in winter when solar is doing very little for 3-4 months. They must know these obvious realities, so what’s the plan?

  18. pochas94 says:

    See a pattern here? Ignore the obvious, cheaper solution and go for the big bux$$.

  19. Gamecock says:

    ‘But its real comparative advantage is that with sufficient scale in water and elevation it can provide days or even weeks of energy storage,” added Turnbull.’

    Then what? What will you do then?

    Storage can’t make wind/solar viable. But they’ll spend billions of your money to get you to think it can.

    Even if you are true believer in CGW, you can’t believe in this junk. The belief that you can replace conventional power generation with wind/solar is juvenile.

    So why are they doing it? Surly, for some, it is “for the big bux$$.” But what’s with the other people?

    ‘The forum is a global, multi-stakeholder initiative of 11 governments and more than 60 organisations aimed at addressing the urgent need for clean and reliable energy storage.’

    These people aren’t that stupid. Unless . . .

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” – Upton Sinclair

  20. Russ Wood says:

    As we found out in South Africa a few years ago – it’s not only surplus power you need for pumped storage – it’s also WATER! We had a drought then, and the rivers supplying the lower dams for the Drakensberg pumped storage schemes were virtually dry. Nothing to pump. And the upper dam, which is also one of the main water suppliers to the Johannesburg area, was running low. And since this dam is usually filled by the overflow – any attempt to use its water might have dried up SA’s industrial centre.

  21. oldbrew says:

    the urgent need for clean and reliable energy storage

    Difficult when so-called ‘clean’ energy itself isn’t reliable — and storage uses more power than it delivers.

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