Hydro Storage May Make Renewable Energy More Sustainable Beyond Batteries

Image ID 236957763 © Péter Gudella | Dreamstime.com


President Biden has set a greenhouse gas reduction goal for 2030, with the aim of cutting US emissions by at least half. Contributing to this are the many renewable energy projects that have been on the rise lately, such as offshore wind farms


Energy sources such as wind and solar depend heavily on weather conditions. To ensure that electricity doesn’t run out at inopportune moments, energy storage is needed—hence various recent stunning innovations in this field, too. 


But there’s another contender to the up-and-coming energy storage market, albeit slightly less talked about: pumped hydro. 

This is when water is transferred from one reservoir to another via pumping uphill, and it’s stored in the one at a higher elevation. When the power is required, this water is released and flows, downhill, passing through turbines on the way. This simultaneously generates the needed electricity.

Sure, batteries do get the job done. And in places like homes and vehicles, they’re obviously the better choice. But pumped hydro, as reported by researchers, can store power for a longer time than batteries can, and in larger amounts, too. 


In terms of long-term storage, it’s also cheaper. At the end of the day, it is still a reservoir, many of which are already in existence.

The team also reports that just one pair of 250-acre reservoirs, located with an altitude difference of 1,969 feet and depth of 65 feet, could store up to 24 gigawatt hours of energy. 

This is equivalent to supplying a gigawatt of power every 24 hours. And this amount is sufficient to power a city with a population of a million, per a paper published in the journal Progress in Energy

However, there is some controversy around pumped hydro, especially when it involves developments such as dams which can affect ecosystems and marine creatures. 

Further research by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) shows that, however, a closed-loop system would mitigate this. Effects on aquatic and terrestrial habitats can be “minimized” as the systems are located offstream. 


Image via NREL / Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Environmental effects are still being investigated, the PNNL writes, especially with regards to things like groundwater, geology, and soils. 

But with all these developments in energy sources and their storage, it’s a promising move towards a cleaner future. 




[via Fast Company and The Conversation, image ID 236957763 © Péter Gudella | Dreamstime.com and NREL / Pacific Northwest National Laboratory]

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *