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Clean energy developer makes progress with massive energy storage project: 'It solves many issues with the grid'

The system, when complete, is more efficient and can store more energy at once than existing battery storage systems.

The system, when complete, is more efficient and can store more energy at once than existing battery storage systems.

Photo Credit: iStock

As more clean energy infrastructure is built in the United States, allowing us to harvest energy from the wind and sun, we also need more ways to store that energy. One such method, called pumped hydro storage, is about to make a comeback in Nevada.

Clean-energy developer rPlus Energies is one step away from gaining final approval for a one gigawatt pumped hydro storage project that, if completed, could store enough clean energy to single-handedly meet one-eighth of the state's peak power demand.

Pumped hydrogen storage works by creating two reservoirs at different elevations, with water passing back and forth between the two, storing and generating energy in the process. A pumped storage system "acts similarly to a giant battery, because it can store power and then release it when needed," the Department of Energy explained. 

While the system uses energy to move the water to the higher elevation, on the way down, it just relies on gravity, passing through a turbine that generates new electricity.

The technology has actually been around for a long time. The reason we don't have more pumped storage facilities is the upfront cost and time — usually six years or more — it takes to build one.

However, the system, when complete, is more efficient and can store more energy at once than existing battery storage systems. It also doesn't require lithium, unlike batteries. For clean energy developers, that makes it a great solution to the storage issue.

"You have a proven technology that's been financed but hasn't been built recently," rPlus President Luigi Resta said. "The time has come now [for new pumped hydro]. The utilities know it, and it solves many issues with the grid."

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Nevada has an official stated goal of reaching 50% renewable energy by 2030. A project like this one, if finished in time, could make a big difference in terms of reaching that goal.

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