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Argonne awarded $1.9 million for hydropower study

ARGONNE, Ill., U.S. 10/19/11 (PennWell) – A $1.9 million grant from the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy will allow Argonne National Laboratory to further its study of advanced pumped-storage hydropower systems.

Argonne’s study will cover the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) region as it is expected to see quick growth in variable renewable energies during the next two decades.

The research is significant because advanced pumped-storage (PS) plants are currently the only large-scale energy storage source that is fully commercially available, and they are capable of integrating into existing electrical grids.

However, much of the 21,000 MW-worth of power currently generated by PS plants around the United states comes from facilities that were constructed 30 or more years ago – prompting the need to reexamine how PS plants can be best utilized.

“Defining the role for pumped storage is going to be more important than ever because it will be called upon to serve a grid that looks radically different than it did when those facilities were built,” Argonne engineer Vladimir Koritarov said.

Chief among these differences is an ever-increasing number of other renewable energy sources, thus changing the role PS plants might play in a modern electrical grid.

“They can help smooth out the variability of the contribution of wind and solar energy to the grid,” Argonne engineer Guenter Conzelmann said. “This grant will allow us to model exactly how the puzzle fits together.

“To stimulate investment, we need to improve the models to show the full value of the technology.”

Alstom, MWH, Siemens and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory will also participate in the study.

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