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Using "Pumped Energy Storage" to augment baseload demand

image credit: ARENA Australia
Aman Goswami's picture
Engineer, Nuclear Systems (Electrical/ I&C) Bruce Power

Hey all, I am a Nuclear Systems Engineer working in the utility industry.

  • Member since 2022
  • 4 items added with 705 views
  • Sep 26, 2022

Is it possible to use water as battery storage to augment the electricity supply? 

Renewables alone cannot meet the baseload grid energy demands.

This happens when the generation from intermittent energy sources is low or demand is high specially when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.

How to reduce carbon dependence?

Deep decarbonization of the energy supply isn't possible without energy storage technologies. One such technology is Pumped-storage hydroelectricity.

Pumped-storage hydroelectricity (PSH), is a type of energy storage used by electric power systems for load balancing.

This method stores energy in the form of gravitational potential energy of water, pumped from a lower elevation reservoir to a higher elevation. The water is then released to rotate turbines at a lower elevation producing electricity.

Low-cost surplus electric power is typically used to run the pumps and during periods of high electrical demand, the stored water is utilized to produce electric power.

Although the losses from the pumping process make the plant a net energy consumer overall, the system increases revenue by selling more electricity during periods of peak demand, when electricity prices are highest.

If the upper reservoir collects significant rainfall or is fed by a river then the plant may be a net energy producer in the manner of a traditional hydroelectric plant.

Real-world Implementation in progress:

Based on recent announcements, TC Energy is proposing to build a pumped hydro storage facility in Meaford, Ont. The project will produce 1,000 megawatts (MW) of clean, emission-free power capacity by reducing the reliance on natural gas power production, and by reusing and recycling the excess electricity currently being generated.

If approved, it will be one of Canada’s largest climate change initiatives, reducing GHG emissions by an average of 500,000 tonnes; that’s the equivalent of removing 150,000 cars from Ontario roads, all while providing clean, carbon-free electricity to nearly a million Ontario homes.

Ending human dependency on fossil fuels will require a mix of technologies and innovation.

What climate technology are you optimistic about?

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 26, 2022

We hear a lot about pushes for more traditional battery storage on the grid and less about building out more pumped hydro storage. Why do you think that is? 

Aman Goswami's picture
Aman Goswami on Sep 28, 2022

I think this storage method was ignored since it had high commissioning costs. But now, with the government's support to drive net-zero initiatives, more market participants may be interested. 

Julian Jackson's picture
Julian Jackson on Sep 26, 2022

Thanks, Aman, for the article. I think it is just the difficulty of finding appropriate places as you need two reservoirs, one above the other. There don't seem to be that many natural areas where all the characteristics are right. However, the neatness of the solution: addressing fresh water storage and power storage at the same time does mean that authorities are - or should be - incentivised to find potential locations. It's expensive, but not impossible, to find one good upper lake, then build a reservoir somewhere below it.

Aman Goswami's picture
Aman Goswami on Sep 28, 2022

Agreed, we need more solutions.

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Sep 26, 2022

We have some pumped storage in the SRP utility area. They have 7 large hydro plants. It is almost perfect for pumped storage. 

   But it doesn't react fast enough. It takes energy to pump the water so it has to be when they have excess. There is also a limit to what they can store. They already get 24/7 from the hydro. 

Julian Silk's picture
Julian Silk on Sep 28, 2022

This is a response to Matt Chester's question.  A study was done for PSH for the Sunshine site near Sykesville, MD in 1984.  From the study:  "The total direct cost of a UPHS plant is estimated at $500 x 10^6 for a 1000-MW plant in 1983 dollars. Underground pumped hydroelectric storage has a relatively long construction schedule, so financing costs and escalation can significantly increase cost. This is a substantial commitment for even a large utility. The justification for such a plant requires high confidence in utility load predictions, accurate cost estimating, and excellent predictability of plant performance. Beyond the technical considerations, however, the quality of the bond market and availability of support through a utility consortium may ultimately determine economic practicability."  See 

 p. 34.  The PSH plant has never been built, despite the value it would bring, because of this enormous fixed cost.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 28, 2022

Thanks for the info, Julian!

Aman Goswami's picture
Thank Aman for the Post!
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