The increasing penetration of solar and wind energy into power grids worldwide highlights the need to expand energy storage capacity to accommodate these variable sources of electricity. The potential contribution of additional closed-loop pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) systems to satisfying the demand for longer term storage of backup power was explored by researchers from the Australian National University.

The search for cost-effective PHES locales focused on former and existing mining sites, noting that construction costs at these sites will be reduced as most of the required excavations have already been completed and developers can tap into existing road and transmission infrastructure. Prospective sites were identified by geographic information system analysis of a digital terrain model to screen for mining pits, pit lakes and tailings ponds.

The resulting Global Greenfield Pumped Hydro Energy Storage Atlas described in Renewable Energy identified 904 suitable locations at former and existing mining sites in 77 nations with a combined storage potential of 30 TWh. The 37 possible PHES sites identified in Australia alone could deliver 540 GWh of storage capacity.

The Global Greenfield Pumped Hydro Energy Storage Atlas can be viewed on the Australian National University's 100% Renewable Energy Group map server.

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