Research conducted by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) suggests that Europe's current pumped-storage capacity could be increased as much as 10 times with the proper scenarios in place.
In a report titled, "Assessment of the European Potential for Pumped Hydropower Energy Storage", JRC developed two hypothetical plans to calculate potential pumped-storage capacity.
The first -- called "T1" -- refers to the connection of two existing reservoirs that are could be linked by a new penstock and hydro turbine equipment.
The second, T2, is based on locations with one existing reservoir, where a second reservoir could be constructed nearby. Sites where the second reservoir might interfere with populated areas, protected wildlife or transport infrastructure were omitted from consideration.
Using these models, JRC determined that T1 offers a theoretical potential 3.5 times Europe's existing capacity, while T2 could increase the capacity tenfold.
This capacity, JRC said, could be essential as European utilities continue working toward the European Union's goal of producing 20% of their power with renewables by 2020.
"The fastest growing renewables -- solar and wind -- depend on natural resources that are not necessarily available when electricity is most needed," JRC said. "Therefore, the possibility to use [pumped-storage] energy during times of increased demand becomes extremely important."
The organization said further work must now be done to provide stakeholders with more accurate data about the sites identified to help spur development.
JRC produced a similar report in April 2012.