Pumped Storage Hydropower | Electricity | 2022 | ATB (2023)

The 2022 ATB data for pumped storage hydropower (PSH) are shown above. Base Year capital costs and resource characterizations are taken from a national closed-loop PSH resource assessment completed under the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) HydroWIRES Project D1: Improving Hydropower and PSH Representations in Capacity Expansion Models. Resource assessment and cost assumptions are documented by(Rosenlieb et al., 2022). This effort considered only closed-loop systems due to their relatively lower environmental impacts, so open-loop and other configurations are not included in these estimates. Operation and maintenance O&M costs and round-trip efficiency are based on estimates for a 1,000-MW system reported in the 2020 DOE Grid Energy Storage Technology Cost and Performance Assessment.(Mongird et al., 2020). Projected changes in capital costs are based on the DOE Hydropower Visionstudy(DOE, 2016)and assume different degrees of technology improvement and technological learning.

The three scenarios for technology innovation are:

  • Conservative Technology Innovation Scenario (Conservative Scenario): no change from baseline CAPEX and O&M costs through 2050
  • Moderate Technology Innovation Scenario (Moderate Scenario): no change from baseline CAPEX and O&M costs through 2050, consistent with the Reference case in the DOE Hydropower Vision study(DOE, 2016)
  • Advanced Technology Innovation Scenario (Advanced Scenario): CAPEX reductions of 12% by 2050 based on improved process and design improvements along with advanced manufacturing, new materials, and other technology improvements, consistent with Advanced Technology in the DOE Hydropower Visionstudy(DOE, 2016); no changes to O&M.

Resource Categorization

Resource categorization from a national closed-loop PSH resource assessment is described in detail by(Rosenlieb et al., 2022). Individual sites are identified using geospatial algorithms to delineate potential reservoir boundaries, exclude reservoirs that violate technical potential criteria (e.g., protected land, critical habitat), find all possible reservoir pairings, and then eliminate overlapping reservoirs to produce the least-cost set of non-overlapping reservoir pairs. Underlying data are site-specific, but for the ATB, resource classes are binned by capital cost such that each class contains a roughly equal amount of total national PSH capacity potential. Binning is done at the national level for the data tables below, and other representations use region-specific cost bins to better represent the distribution of site characteristics in each region. Physical characteristics and capital cost statistics for each ATB class are included in the table below.

Resource Class Capacity and Capital Costs

ATB ClassTotal Number of Sites IdentifiedTotal Generating Capacity (GW)Site Generating Capacity (MW)Capital Cost
Class 13401895571823,328$1,912$1,200$2,138
Class 24721883971631,500$2,292$2,138$2,416
Class 35231883591531,382$2,526$2,416$2,620
Class 4629188298138959$2,729$2,621$2,831
Class 56531872861201,028$2,923$2,831$3,006
Class 67361882561061,036$3,089$3,006$3,171
Class 77601872471011,203$3,256$3,171$3,341
Class 8810187231105965$3,423$3,341$3,501
Class 987418721487790$3,584$3,501$3,667
Class 10927187202901,028$3,755$3,667$3,839
Class 11960188195821011$3,931$3,839$4,023
Class 121,00118718789811$4,123$4,023$4,232
Class 131,07118817582720$4,357$4,233$4,486
Class 141,06918717571609$4,654$4,486$4,850
Class 1594418819967619$5,266$4,850$6,981

Resource Class Design Values

ATB ClassReservoir Volume (gigaliters)Hydraulic Head (m)Distance Between Reservoirs (m)
Class 23.61.320.65853009403,69513424497
Class 33.61.421.65203008003,6789944498
Class 43.21.315.04803007513,64910804499
Class 53.31.316.14423006693,6486744497

Scenario Descriptions

Cost reductions in the Advanced Scenario reflect various types of technology innovations that could be applied to PSH facilities. These potential innovations, which are discussed in the DOE Hydropower Vision Roadmap(DOE, 2016), are largely similar to technology pathways for hydropower without pumping.

Summary of Technology Innovation: Advanced Scenario

ModularityNew MaterialsEco-Friendly Pumps and TurbinesInnovative Closed-Loop Concepts
Technology DescriptionsDrop-in systems that minimize civil works and maximize ease of manufactureAlternative materials for water diversion (e.g., penstocks)Innovative approaches to improved environmental performanceOff-river designs allowing better combined economic and environmental performance
ImpactsReduced civil works costReduced construction material costsReduced environmental mitigation costsReduced environmental costs and increased modularity and standardization
References(DOE, 2016)(DOE, 2016)(DOE, 2016)(DOE, 2016)

Representative Technology

The resource assessment procedure requires several design specifications to be defined up front, and for the resource included in the ATB, these include a fixed 30-m dam height, a minimum 300-m hydraulic head height, and a maximum reservoir distance of 15 times the head height(Rosenlieb et al., 2022). Upper and lower reservoir volumesare also assumed to be within 20% of each other. Given the resulting technical specifications of each reservoir pair, the powerhouse (turbine, generator, and electrical equipment) can be sized flexibly for a given reservoir pair, and here all data assume the powerhouse is sized for exactly 10 hours of storage duration (i.e., a maximum of 10 hours generating at rated capacity).


This section describes the methodology to develop assumptions for CAPEX, O&M, and round-trip efficiency.

Capital Expenditures (CAPEX)

Capital costs are first calculated for each site using the PSH cost model from Australia National University(Andrew Blakers et al., 2019)adjusted to use a 33% project contingency factor instead of the base 20% assumption to better align with other technologies and U.S. industry practice. The cost model uses reservoir and powerhouse characteristics as inputs to generalized equations for PSH overnight capital cost. These raw costs are then further calibrated to more closely match hydropower industry expectations by multiplying site costs by a factor equal to the ratio of the central CAPEX estimate in(Mongird et al., 2020)for a 1,000-MW, 10-hour facility to the median CAPEX of all sites in the capacity range of 900–1,100 MW(Mongird et al., 2020). This factor is equal to 1.51, and due to the limited amount of available cost data, this factor is applied uniformly to all sites. Grid connection costs are then added based on the distance from the powerhouse location (assumed at the lower reservoir) to the nearest high-voltage transmission line node(Maclaurin et al., 2021). Cost assessment is described in greater detail in(Rosenlieb et al., 2022).

The maps below plot median CAPEX in each state for each of 15 resource classes when individual sites are binned by cost separately for each state. Some states have zero sites identified, largely due to insufficient elevation differences to meet a 300 m minimum head height criteria. The ratio of distance between reservoirs to head height (L/H ratio) is also shown for individual sites. The display also includes links to a bar chart and a tabular display. The bar chart shows more granular data for each balancing area defined in the Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS) capacity expansion model(Ho et al., 2021)along with the state average PSH capital cost. The table allows the data to be filtered by class and balancing area to view region- or class-specific data.

Regional PSH Capital Cost by Class

Operation and Maintenance (O&M) Costs

(Mongird et al., 2020)characterize PSH O&M costs using a literature review of recently published sources of PSH cost and performance data. For the 2022 ATB, we use cost estimates for a 1,000-MW plant, which has lower labor costs per power output capacity than a smaller facility. O&M costs also include component costs for standard maintenance, refurbishment, and repair. O&M cost reductions are not projected because the relevant technical components are assumed to be mature, so they are constant and identical across all scenarios.

Round-Trip Efficiency

Round-trip efficiency is also based on a literature review by(Mongird et al., 2020), who report a range of 70%–87% across several sources. The value of 80% is taken as a central estimate, and no improvements are projected either in(Mongird et al., 2020)or here because the relevant technical components are assumed to be mature. Thus, round-trip efficiency is constant and identical across all scenarios.


The following references are specific to this page; for all references in this ATB, see References.

Rosenlieb, Evan, Donna Heimiller, and Stuart Cohen. “Closed-Loop Pumped Storage Hydropower Resource Assessment for the United States.” Golden, CO: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2022. https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy22osti/81277.pdf.

Mongird, Kendall, Vilayanur Viswanathan, Jan Alam, Charlie Vartanian, Vincent Sprenkle, and Richard Baxter. “2020 Grid Energy Storage Technology Cost and Performance Assessment.” Washington, D.C.: U. S. Department of Energy, December 2020. https://www.energy.gov/energy-storage-grand-challenge/downloads/2020-grid-energy-storage-technology-cost-and-performance.

DOE. “Hydropower Vision: A New Chapter for America’s Renewable Electricity Source.” Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Energy, 2016. https://doi.org/10.2172/1502612.

Maclaurin, Galen, Nicholas Grue, Anthony Lopez, Donna Heimiller, Michael Rossol, Grant Buster, and Travis Williams. “The Renewable Energy Potential (ReV) Model: A Geospatial Platform for Technical Potential and Supply Curve Modeling.” Golden, CO: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2021. https://doi.org/10.2172/1563140.

Ho, Jonathan, Jonathon Becker, Maxwell Brown, Patrick Brown, Ilya (ORCID:0000000284917814) Chernyakhovskiy, Stuart Cohen, Wesley (ORCID:000000029194065X) Cole, et al. “Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS) Model Documentation: Version 2020.” Golden, CO: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, June 9, 2021. https://doi.org/10.2172/1788425.

Andrew Blakers, Matthew Stocks, Bin Lu, Kirsten Anderson, and Anna Nadolny. “Global Pumped Hydro Atlas.” Australian National University, 2019. http://re100.eng.anu.edu.au/research/phes/.


Pumped Storage Hydropower | Electricity | 2022 | ATB? ›

Pumped storage hydropower (PSH) is a type of hydroelectric energy storage. It is a configuration of two water reservoirs at different elevations that can generate power as water moves down from one to the other (discharge), passing through a turbine.

How does pumped hydropower storage work? ›

Pumped storage hydropower (PSH) is a type of hydroelectric energy storage. It is a configuration of two water reservoirs at different elevations that can generate power as water moves down from one to the other (discharge), passing through a turbine.

What is the disadvantage of pumped hydro storage? ›

There are also drawbacks associated with PHES, which include its relatively lower energy density compared with some other energy storage systems. It is bedevilled with high construction cost and long construction time in comparison to most types of power generation plants.

Is pumped storage clean energy? ›

Pumped storage hydropower is a form of clean energy storage that is ideal for electricity grids reliant on solar and wind power. The technology absorbs surplus energy at times of low demand and releases it when demand is high.

How efficient is pumped hydro storage? ›

This means that 10% of the energy stored in an upper reservoir is lost when the water passes through the turbine to produce electricity. In a complete PHES cycle, water is pumped from a lower to an upper reservoir and at a later time returns to the lower reservoir, with a round-trip efficiency of about 80%.

Is pumped storage hydropower eco friendly? ›

Closed-loop pumped hydro storage present minimal environmental impact as they are not connected to existing river systems. In addition, they do not need to be located near an existing river and can therefore be located where needed to support the grid.

How much water is needed for pumped hydro? ›

Energy storage in pumped hydro

Accounting for pumping and generating losses, the effective energy storage capacity is about 3 GWh (or 300 MW of power for ten hours). Roughly speaking, 1 GWh of energy storage requires 1 GL of stored water for 400 m head.

What is the lifespan of pumped hydro? ›

Pumped hydro is proven technology and has a typical lifespan in excess of 50 years, compared to batteries, which currently last between 8 and 15 years.

What is the problem with pumped hydro? ›

However, the reality has been far from smooth. One of the main issues with pumped hydro in Australia is its negative impact on the environment. The construction of pumped hydro projects often involves flooding large areas of land, which can have devastating effects on ecosystems and wildlife.

What are the problems with pumped storage? ›

This leads to three groups of problems : firstly, the efficiency of using the installed capacity of power equipment is reduced, which is the most important factor affecting its payback; secondly, the frequent operation of power equipment in variable mode dramatically increases fuel consumption at thermal plants and ...

What is the most efficient storage of energy? ›

It turns out the most efficient energy storage mechanism is to convert electrical energy to mechanical potential energy, for example by pumping water up a hill, said Chu. When the electricity is needed, the raised water is released through turbines that generate electricity.

Is pumped hydro cheap? ›

Pumped hydro is already the cheapest energy storage technology in the world in terms of cost per installed kilowatt-hour of capacity. Total project costs range between $106 and $200 per kilowatt-hour, compared to between $393 and $581 for lithium-ion batteries, World Bank figures show.

Why is pumped storage used at night? ›

In times of reduced electricity supply and/or high demand, such as at night, when some electrical load remains but the sun is not shining and solar energy is inaccessible, water from the upper reservoir is released to the lower reservoir, generating electricity as it moves down through a turbine.

How much pumped hydroelectric storage is used in the United States? ›

By contrast, pumped storage is by far the largest source of energy storage on the grid today, accounting for about 95 percent of America's installed storage capacity. Today, the U.S. has more than 21,000 MW of pumped storage, which is equivalent to the power demand of more than 16.7 million households.

Is pumped hydro feasible? ›

Pumped hydro offers a natural solution, which can be technically and commercially feasible.

What are the environmental impacts of pumped hydropower? ›

Just as reducing downstream water flow can cause a loss of habitat, creating reservoirs to generate electricity in storage and pumped storage hydropower systems often cause upstream flooding that destroys wildlife habitats, scenic areas, and prime farming land.

How does a pumped storage system work step by step? ›

How does it work? The principle is simple. Pumped storage facilities have two water reservoirs at different elevations on a steep slope. When there is excess power on the grid and demand for electricity is low, the power is used to pump water from the lower to the upper reservoir using reversible turbines.

What is an advantage of a pumped storage hydroelectric power station? ›

The advantage of pumped hydro storage is that it gives the generating plant more water to use to generate electricity as the system acts like a giant battery for water storage. In a conventional hydroelectric dam generating station, a substantial amount of water is needed to rotate the hydro turbines.

What are the environmental impacts of pumped hydro storage? ›

Just as reducing downstream water flow can cause a loss of habitat, creating reservoirs to generate electricity in storage and pumped storage hydropower systems often cause upstream flooding that destroys wildlife habitats, scenic areas, and prime farming land.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Mrs. Angelic Larkin

Last Updated: 23/12/2023

Views: 6223

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (67 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Mrs. Angelic Larkin

Birthday: 1992-06-28

Address: Apt. 413 8275 Mueller Overpass, South Magnolia, IA 99527-6023

Phone: +6824704719725

Job: District Real-Estate Facilitator

Hobby: Letterboxing, Vacation, Poi, Homebrewing, Mountain biking, Slacklining, Cabaret

Introduction: My name is Mrs. Angelic Larkin, I am a cute, charming, funny, determined, inexpensive, joyous, cheerful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.