Volume 4 Issue 6 June

The Increasing Importance of Pumped Storage Hydro

By Kris Polly

After a few decades of slow progress, pumped storage is taking off again. As wind and solar generation increase, the grid needs the additional long-term energy storage. That is pumped storage’s specialty. In our cover story this month, we speak with Matt Dunlap, a senior project mechanical engineer with Kleinschmidt Associates, about his company’s work on pumped storage projects, especially the Banks Lake Pumped Storage Project that the firm is developing for Columbia Basin Hydropower.

Next, we speak with Erik Steimle and Michael Rooney of Rye Development, which has a large portfolio made up of pumped storage projects and of new hydropower projects on currently nonpowered dams. The desire for storage, green energy, and a way to repurpose existing facilities and brownfield sites is boosting Rye’s business.

Australia-based Sunshine Hydro has its own spin on hydro and energy storage. Its Superhybrid model links pumped storage hydro, wind, solar, and hydrogen production. CEO Rick McElhinney tells us about several projects Sunshine has underway.

Then, we speak with Shih-Chieh Kao, the manager of the Water Power Program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), about his research into the effects of climate change on hydropower, hydropower’s value to the grid, the prospects for standard modular hydropower, and more.

We dive deeper into the work of the national lab system in a conversation with Osman Ahmed, a principal technical advisor at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), and Hong Wang, a principal investigator at ORNL. Their Digital Twins for Hydropower project seeks to harness mathematical models, artificial intelligence, virtualization tools, and more to create digital copies of hydropower facilities that can be experimented with to optimize operations, maintenance, and more.

Finally, we take a peek at some historic small hydro units still providing power to the Nebraska Public Power District. The North Platte Hydro and Kearney Hydro facilities date back to the Depression era and the 19th century, respectively.

Hydropower and pumped storage are becoming increasingly important for maintaining the stability of the electrical grid, and it is exciting to see major new pumped storage projects underway for the first time in some years. We look forward to keeping you updated as these projects move forward.

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Hydro Leader magazine and the president and CEO of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at kris.polly@waterstrategies.com.