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Report covers how pumped storage can help integrate variable renewables

A new report, Innovation Landscape for a Renewable-Powered Future: Solutions to Integrate Variable Renewables, highlights innovations available that could accelerate renewable energy deployment to meet demand and help ensure that the energy transformation is global and inclusive. Pumped storage hydropower is one topic covered in this report, which was released by the International Renewable Energy Agency.

“Innovation is the engine that powers the ongoing transformation of the global energy system,” said Adnan Z. Amin, director-general of IRENA. “A multitude of innovative solutions have been key to making renewables into the competitive energy option that they are today.”

The report states that renewable power generation accounted for an estimated one-quarter of total global power generation in 2017. By the end of 2017, the installed capacity of renewables reached 2,337 GW, comprising 34% of the total power-generating capacity. The bulk of this was from hydropower (54%), followed by wind power (22%) and solar power (mostly solar PV, at almost 17%).

One of the “innovation briefs,” under the topic of system operation, relates to innovative operation of pumped hydropower storage.

The report says: Pumped hydro storage plants are flexible plants that can be operated in a way that complements wind/solar power generation in the short term, reacting to variability with fast ramps, as well as in the long term, given the complementarity in daily, weekly or seasonal generation patterns.

IRENA lists several “key regions with innovative operation of pumped hydro storage.” They are: Japan, Portugal, Costa Rica, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Republic of Korea, China, UK, France, Brazil, Singapore, Malaysia, Italy, Australia and the U.S.

The report lists supply-side flexibility solutions that include incentivizing existing generation towards more flexible behavior, such as from fast-responding pumped hydro storage.

Additionally, hydropower is listed as a flexible generation option to accommodate variability. “Typically, hydropower and gas-fired plants offer such fast ramping and fast reaction times. Hydro plants have the capability to react instantaneously, at zero costs. …  Pumped hydro storage plants can provide a great degree of flexibility in terms of both supply (firm electricity as needed) and demand (pumping to refill reservoirs in times of excess supply).”