NREL releases online tool to estimate pumped hydro storage costs


NREL has created a cost-estimation tool that evaluates the potential construction and labour costs associated with closed-loop PSH plants in the United States.

The tool allows operators to select from a range of system characteristics, accounting for factors such as local geology, labor rates and inflation. NREL said it could help grid planners to provide an accurate picture of how many PSH facilities could reasonably be built over the coming decades and how they could work together with batteries.

“Pumped storage hydropower is maybe the most promising energy storage solution we have to achieve the huge ramp up needed to achieve a clean electricity sector,” said NREL researcher Daniel Inman.

PSH is the biggest source of grid-scale energy storage capacity in the United States, accounting for around 96% in 2022, according to the US Department of Energy. But NREL said few new pumped storage hydropower facilities have been built since the 1970s, partly due to high upfront costs.

Closed-loop PSH systems, which are separated from naturally flowing waterways, are the favored option today as they are more environmentally friendly. NREL said that due to gaps in the construction of pumped storage facilities, it has been difficult to predict how much closed-loop facilities might cost.

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“This tool allows potential project developers to get a ballpark figure for what a particular facility might cost,” Inman explained. “And a more realistic cost estimation would allow us to develop capacity expansion modeling results that are more realistic.”

Last week, NREL released a high-resolution solar data set covering Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East on its Renewable Energy Data Explorer tool.

In February, researchers from Australian National University published a global atlas for potential PSH sites in former mining areas.

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