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DOE announces new prize to accelerate pumped storage hydropower

The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced a new prize competition to support the development of pumped storage hydropower: the Furthering Advancements to Shorten Time (FAST) Commissioning for Pumped Storage Hydropower (PSH) prize. The prize seeks novel solutions and technologies that address the non-regulatory challenges PSH developers face deploying new storage projects and supports the goal to reduce the time to commission PSH from its current 10 years to less than five.

PSH is a type of hydroelectric energy storage. It is a configuration of two water reservoirs at different elevations that can generate power (discharge) as water moves down through a turbine; this draws power as it pumps water (recharge) to the upper reservoir.


Diagram of the TVA pumped storage facility at Raccoon Mountain Pumped-Storage Plant.

PSH capabilities can be characterized as open loop—where there is an ongoing hydrologic connection to a natural body of water—or closed loop, where the reservoirs are not connected to an outside body of water.

Pumped-storage currently accounts for 95% of all utility-scale energy storage in the United States.

Finalists will receive vouchers for up to 50 hours of support from one of four DOE national laboratories to prepare for a pitch contest which will result in up to 3 winners and up to $550,000 of combined cash prizes and voucher support.

Today’s electricity system is changing rapidly, creating new opportunities for hydropower and PSH to contribute to system resilience, reliability, and affordability. PSH is a key storage technology that supports increased integration of variable generation resources. However, large capital investments and long lead times required to get PSH projects commissioned serve as deterrents to would-be developers and utilities.

The FAST Commissioning Prize provides both cash and in-kind laboratory support prizes. The goal of the prize is to catalyze new solutions, designs and strategies to accelerate PSH development. Concepts could include innovative PSH concepts, new layouts, creative construction management, improved construction equipment, application of advanced manufacturing, or standardization of equipment. In the first stage, 10 finalists will be selected to receive 50 hours of support over approximately three months from the FAST national laboratory partners in preparation for a pitch contest with up to 3 winners and up to $950,000 of combined cash prizes and vouchers support.

This prize is part of a larger $2-million effort conducted by DOE in partnership with Argonne National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, that will leverage the technical expertise, facilities, and marketing reach of the national laboratory network to ensure maximum visibility, technical applicability, and impact. In addition to the prize, the national laboratories are developing an analytical baseline framework to help industry and understand the costs, time and risk associated with PSH.

The first stage of the prize closes on 24 May 2019.



Makes you wonder where they expect to SITE these things.  PSH systems are also going to be a serious flood risk when e.g. the New Madrid fault lets go.


Most curent Hydro plants, with large enough water reservoirs, can be modified to act like a pumped Hydro sites, whenever required.

Extra water turbines/generators could be added to increase peak load capacity and make better use of adjacent Solar and Wind farms on a 24/7 basis.


In .au abandoned open cut mine sites are often seen as environmental concerns including from polluted waters.
Moneys posted as bond for remediation are not close to the costs however many such sites are proposed for pumped hydro.
The grid is dispersed so somewhat smaller scales than might be sought than for higher density larger scale opps so works fine for distributed grid stabilisation and backup.


Australia is notorious for being dry over the bulk of the continent.  Where would .au get the water for open-pool PHS?  If you used seawater, you'd almost certainly contaminate and ruin any groundwater in the area.


Most of the population live coastal which is where the power is needed with the dryer inland sites being remote from good grid connection. Pumped hydro apparently has low carbon footprint and as it recycles much of it's water there is less requirement for inflow, dams, flooding valleys etc.
Much groundwater could benefit to some degree from reverse osmosis or similar for drinking and irrigation. But of course there is also concern about using large volumes of groundwater as it is becoming better understood to be a finite resource.
there are some very successful solar farm / big battery / horticultural greenhouse enterprises in drylands where insect pests are not and there is plenty of sunshine. One uses a redundant wastewater discharge pipe to pump seawater in.

Sundrop Farms' original pilot facility desalinated seawater but did not return waste brine to Spencer Gulf. The brine was collected in ponds from which salt could be harvested.[19] The company's brine management plan changed with its 20 hectare expansion in 2014. Sundrop Farms sought and received approval from the South Australian Environment Protection Authority to discharge waste brine into Spencer Gulf at a salinity of 60 parts per thousand. The expanded facility discharged its brine into the cooling water outflow channel at the existing coal-fired Port Augusta power stations.[18][needs update] Environmental approval from the Commonwealth Government via referral under the EPBC Act[20] was not required of or sought by Sundrop Farms for this project. Sundrop Farms continues to investigate commercially viable solutions for the recovery of minerals from brine at a large scale. Wiki.

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