Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pumped-Hydro Energy Storage Highlighted at POWER-GEN

Russell Ray, senior associate editor of Hydro Review magazine (a PennWell property), reports from POWER-GEN International that pumped-hydro energy has become a regular feature at the conference. Here's his report:

Hydropower and its role in America’s plan to boost the use of renewable energy was the subject of much discussion this week in Orlando, Fla., the site of POWER-GEN International 2010.

Specifically, experts highlighted the need to build more pumped-storage hydro projects in the U.S. to maintain a reliable grid. The need stems from the increasing use of wind and solar power, intermittent sources of energy that will require reliable backup generation.

Pumped-storage projects provide grid-scale reliability. Without more pumped-storage, it will become increasingly difficult to balance load on a grid connected to increasing amounts of wind and solar power, said Rick Miller, senior vice president of the Hydropower Division at HDR/DTA.

“Reinvigorating pumped storage in this country is critical if we’re going to be successful in integrating and expanding our variable energy resources,” Miller said during a panel discussion on hydropower technologies.

Europe has done a better job of incorporating pumped storage in their plans to boost the use of wind and solar power, Miller said.

“They’ve integrated storage as a part of their overall integrated resource plan,” Miller said. “We haven’t done that in this country. We only have energy only.”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is considering about 60 preliminary permits for the construction of pumped-storage facilities in the U.S. However, those projects may never be built because of an uncertain market and reluctant lenders, Miller said.

“There’s a lot of capital out there ready to be loaned,” he said.

The problem is, the development of a pumped-storage facility is a 10-year process, from concept to construction, Miller explained.

“There is not 10-year ahead market and that’s why we can’t get them financed,” he said.

Russell Ray is senior associate editor of Hydro Review magazine. Russell has 11 years experience as an energy journalist, covering the oil and gas industry in Oklahoma and the growth of solar and nuclear power in Florida. He served eight years as the energy reporter for the Tulsa World. He held the same position at the Tampa Tribune for two and a half years before joining Hydro Review in 2009.

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