Frequently Asked Questions
A pumped storage plant is a reservoir system that uses electricity to pump water that is used to regenerate electricity at a later time.
Pumped storage plants do not produce any net electricity. They consume electricity from the power grid, pumping water uphill for storage, and then returning a portion of the consumed electricity to the grid at a later time by allowing that water to run back downhill through generators.
One produces renewable electricity, the other consumes it. Hydroelectric plants create new net power by damming a free flowing water source and releasing the water through generators to produce electricity. Pumped storage plants are large reservoirs that only store energy generated by power plants. Because of large scale inefficiencies and water evaporation, pumped storage wastes 25% of the energy stored, dramatically increasing the cost of power generation.
No, it actually sets back renewable energy development. 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 Like pumped storage technology itself, this thinking is outdated.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 has already been added to the US power grid yet no new pumped storage has been needed.
Pumped storage is expensive to build. HB1083 allows those costs to be passed along to Colorado residents and business as higher utility rates. The primary purpose of pumped storage is store energy so that it can be sold at higher rates, adding further to electricity costs. Only the project developers, TransCanada and the power companies benefit from HB1083. There is no benefit returned to the people or businesses of Colorado who pay for it.
Pumped storage wastes 25-30% of the energy it uses for pumping and regeneration. Putting this into perspective, the energy wasted at just the planned South Slope Pumped Storage plant will consume 13% of Colorado’s total wind energy output as waste each day, storing only 6 hours worth of electricity. Since our renewable output is fixed, the energy needed to make up for this will have to come from coal, gas or nuclear.
The calculations follow...
Reselling low cost coal, nuclear or natural gas energy produced in Colorado at higher rates in open markets. Pumped storage enables such reselling but the inherent energy waste, regulations and the high build costs of pumped storage make it unprofitable unless subsidized by Colorado ratepayers. House Bill 1083 will allow the needed rate hikes to ensure TransCanada profits regrdless of their costs to build or operate the plant.
Pumped storage is outdated, ineffective and can easily triple the cost of developing renewable energy. A pumped storage plant is more expensive to build than the wind or solar power plant it stores energy for. Over 25% of the energy used in the storage process is wasted.
No. Solar power is an intermittent source depending on weather and time of day, but the times when sunlight is available coincide with peak daytime energy demand. So, when solar is available it can be fully utilized by the power grid to offload other energy generators. There is no return to storing solar energy especially considering the high cost of pumped storage.
It actually has the opposite effect. A study of energy storage systems built to complement the Netherlands' wind program found pumped storage generally ineffective and unprofitable. The most significant finding of the Dutch study was that wind generators combined with energy storage resulted in increased pollution and CO2 emissions.
Politicians in the South Slope Pumped Storage plant's districts claim 22 jobs will be added in Fremont County. The plant adds $1.6 billion to the $0.8 billion cost of the wind generators it purports to be essential for. House Bill 11-1083 gives the public utility commission and the power companies the means to pass this costs along to Colorado electricity customers. The price tag to Colorado ratepayers for a plant that produces no energy, works out to $72 million dollars per job created.
It does not. The 2011 Annual Energy Outlook on Generating Capacity from the Department of Energy, lays out projections through 2035 for both renewable and conventional energy. No near term or long term increases in pumped storage plants are needed for United States' energy strategy.
Generally, yes. Most of the pumped storage plants we have today were built last century, along with the growth in coal and nuclear power plants. Both coal and nuclear generator plants are slow to "throttle" up and down along with changes in load demand. They are inexpensive power sources so storing pumped water for later use is cost effective especially when it can generate power at peal times when rates ate higher. New technology and advanced grid balancing has eliminated the need for new pumped storage.
Pumped storage wastes over 25% of the energy it stores due to inherent inefficiencies, evaporation and other losses in the pumping process. Even with such massive waste, the power companies can still make a profit by storing energy at times when it is cheap, and then reselling it into the energy market at times when they are allowed to charge higher rates.