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The Myth of Pumped Storage and Wind Energy

Conventional thinking is that pumped storage must be increased as intermittent energy sources like wind and solar increase, because they may not always be available at times of peak electricity demand. Like pumped storage technology itself, this thinking is outdated.

Over 36,000 MW of wind generation have already been added to the US power grid without the need for any new pumped storage. That is nearly 100 times more wind power than the 432MW the South Slope project developers claim is needed for Colorado's wind development. In 2008 the US added 8,500 MW of wind power, over 20 times the South Slope design capacity. In the second quarter of 2010, 1,240 MW of wind power came online in the US.  The South Slope storage plant is a 2-3  year construction project that when complete, would be able to handle less than one third of the wind capacity added in just 3 months of 2010.

Advances in smart grids will allow us to absorb even more more intermittent and renewable energy for the foreseeable future.  Denmark the world leader in wind energy production has eliminated the need for energy storage by dynamically balancing every power grid, load and demand within, and outside its electrical system.

New technologies being deployed for smart grids will be able to effectively balance both peak loads and intermittent sources, without the massive energy waste and environmental footprint of pumped storage. These and other factors are evidenced in the US energy plans for both conventional and renewable energy. The Department of Energy projections call for zero growth of new pumped storage.

Wind energy may be available at times of high demand but may also be available off peak demand hours like at night. Excessive wind capacity will be addressed with existing pumped storage, and by emerging technologies like responsive gas generators, smart grid load balancing and forecasting, along with favorable regulations for interstate and international power sharing.

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