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Pumped hydroelectric storage

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Pumped hydroelectric storage (or pumped hydro) is an alternative energy storage method that does not rely on chemical battery technology. Pumped hydro involves using electricity to pump water from a lower reservoir to and upper reservoir, thereby storing potential energy gained as the water rises in elevation. The energy can be discharged at a later time, allowing the water to flow back down to the lower reservoir, spinning a turbine generator on the way and generating electricity (by converting the stored potential, into the kinetic energy of moving water, into electrical energy from the turbine).


Pumped hydro systems require three important environmental elements to be functional and economical: (1) access a reliable water supply that will not be compromised by operation, (2) a significant elevation differential from the lower reservoir to the upper reservoir, and (3) large enough land to build the often large and wide upper reservoir.


Pumped hydro is best suited for grid-scale energy storage as it requires a large physical footprint and has substantial efficiency gains as it is scaled up. These systems are often paired well with solar power arrays; because solar energy generation can often exceed daytime energy demand, the overproduced energy can be used for onsite storage.


Because pumped hydro can store large volumes of water with a lot of potential energy, they are good alternatives for grid-scale storage. Pumped hydro stations can store significant amounts of energy and can be designed to have variable discharge rates based on the flow rate of the water leaving the upper reservoir.

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