Scientists from the Australian National University (ANU) have identified 616,818 locations worldwide that could be suitable for 23.1 million GWh of pumped-hydro storage capacity.
The sites relate exclusively to closed-loop pumped-hydro energy storage projects with little environmental impact due to their location away from rivers. The sites can be found through an open-source online platform managed by the Australian government.
The locations all are at altitudes less than 100 m above sea level and have sufficient height differences to enable potential energy storage between two water reservoirs.
“Off-river” pumped-hydro projects are also said to overcome the typical topographical issues of conventional pumped-hydro, as the size of reservoirs is relatively small, ranging from tens to hundreds of hectares. This limited size also reduces the need to manage large flood events and enables lower construction costs.
The enormous storage potential identified in the research should be mostly used for medium-term storage of intermittent PV and wind power generation. “The pumped hydro resource is well distributed at a regional and sub-regional level to support variable renewable energy deployment,” the academics explained.
Using just 1% of the identified sites in the atlas for pumped-hydro storage would be enough to support a global electricity system powered by 100% of renewables, according to the researchers. Currently, there are more than 180 GW of pumped-hydro storage systems in operation around the world.
The Australian group also emphasized that the levelized cost of storage (LCOS) for closed-loop, off-river pumped hydro is currently the lowest for storage of hours to days. The lowest energy storage cost is achieved in reservoir pairs with large head and large water-to-rock (V/R) ratios for the target storage capacity, they said.
The findings of the research were presented in the study Global Atlas of Closed-Loop Pumped Hydro Energy Storage, published in Joule.
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