Challenges and solutions to increased pumped storage hydropower development in the U.S. are identified in a report from General Electric, U.S. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and National Hydropower Association researchers.

Pumped storage hydropower currently provides 93% of energy storage capacity in the U.S., totaling 22.9 GW. These facilities were originally developed between 1960 and 1990 to complement the operation of large, baseload coal and nuclear power plants and to help balance the grid by providing peaking power during daytime generation and load during nighttime pumping. Barriers to accelerated development of these systems are identified in terms of development costs, licensing obstacles and inequitable policy treatment.

Relevant remedial recommendations target improvements to the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licensing process. Policy changes are also proposed to ensure that pumped storage hydropower technology is considered fairly among other storage options, that its services are properly valued in wholesale markets and that it receives adequate treatment in federal tax incentives. State legislatures should allow all energy storage technologies, including pumped storage, to participate in renewable portfolio standard programs or clean energy standards on a technology neutral-basis.

To contact the author of this article, email shimmelstein@globalspec.com