A potential 530,000 sites exist for pumped storage hydropower projects worldwide, according to a global audit carried out by the Australian National University (ANU), with the sites able to support low-cost, secure, 100% renewable electricity grids.
According to the ANU audit, the zero-emission grids would mainly rely on solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind technology, with support from pumped storage hydro storage and extra high voltage transmission between regions.
Dr Matthew Stocks said the prospective short-term off-river pumped hydro energy storage (STORES) sites combined had a global potential storage capacity of 22GWh – which is hundreds of times more than the amount needed to support a global 100 per cent renewable electricity grid.
“Only a small fraction of the 530,000 potential sites we’ve identified would be needed to support a 100 per cent renewable global electricity system. We identified so many potential sites that much less than the best one per cent will be required,” said Dr Stocks from the ANU Research School of Electrical, Energy and Materials Engineering (RSEEME).
“The perception has been there are limited sites for pumped hydro around the world, but we have found hundreds of thousands.”
The audit of these STORES sites and the team’s analysis relies on geographic information system (GIS) algorithms, which were peer reviewed recently as part of a publication authored by Dr Stocks and his colleagues in the international journal Applied Energy: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306261918305270
The team developed the advanced GIS algorithms to locate prospective sites for off-river pumped hydro across a large land area such as a state or a country.
This assessment is based on appealing physical characteristics, but the 530,000 potential pumped-hydro sites identified would require detailed due diligence involving land ownership, engineering, hydrological, environmental and other considerations.
Maps showing the locations of potential STORES sites and details of the team’s analysis are available at: http://re100.eng.anu.edu.au/global/
In September 2017, the team identified 22,000 STORES upper reservoirs in Australia. The new work extends the previous work to the rest of the world. Additionally, it identifies both upper and lower reservoir pairs and a route for the connecting tunnel.
“Only the most promising 3,000 sites are retained in our audit of Australia,” Dr Stocks said.
Co-researcher Professor Andrew Blakers said annual water requirements of an electricity system built primarily on solar PV and wind would be much less than a fossil fuel system because wind and PV do not require cooling water.
Co-researcher and RSEEME colleague Mr Bin Lu added the potential pumped storage sites identified were outside national parks and urban areas, and each site has storage potential in the range two to 150 GWh.