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Hydropower grew faster in the last 10 years than other forms of storage

Over the past decade, pumped hydropower storage (PHS) capacity grew by almost as much as all other forms of energy storage in the United States combined, which were mostly battery storage installations, according to a recently released Department of Energy (DOE) report.

Pumped hydropower storage capacity increased by 1,400 megawatts (MW) from 2010 to 2019, the report noted. Almost all of the growth came from upgrades to six existing PHS plants: Castaic in California, Northfield Mountain in Massachusetts, Muddy Run in Pennsylvania, and Bad Creek, Fairfield, and Jocassee in South Carolina.

Since 2010 a total of $7.8 billion has been invested in pumped hydropower storage refurbishments and upgrade with almost $2 billion of the total investment for projects initiated between 2017 and 2019.

All other utility-scale energy storage projects deployed by the end of 2019, mostly battery storage projects, had a combined power capacity of 1.6 GW and energy storage capacity of 1.75 GWh.

In all, there are 43 pumped hydropower storage plants in the U.S. with total power capacity of 21.9 gigawatts (GW) and estimated energy storage capacity of 553 gigawatt hours (GWh), which accounted for 93% of utility-scale storage power capacity (GW) and more than 99% of electrical energy storage (GWh), according to the DOE report.

Looking forward, pumped hydropower storage appears poised to continue its upward trajectory. The pumped hydropower storage project development pipeline doubled in the past five years, according to the report. At the end of 2019, there were 67 pumped hydropower storage projects, representing 52 GW, under development, ranging in size from 5 MW to 4,000 MW. Geographic interest in pumped hydropower storage has expanded with new projects being explored in New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wyoming.

Overall, hydropower capacity saw a net growth of 431 MW between 2017 and 2019, mostly from capacity increases at existing facilities, new hydropower in conduits and canals, and by powering non-powered dams. At the end of 2019, U.S. hydropower totaled 80.25 GW, accounting for 6.7% of the country’s installed generation capacity.

In 2019, hydropower generated 274 terawatt hours (TWh), representing 6.6% of U.S. electricity generation and 38% of electricity from renewables.

The most recent U.S. Hydropower Market Report is the third edition and covers the years 2017 through 2019. The previous editions were published in 2015 and 2018. The report combines data from public and commercial sources, as well as research findings from other Department of Energy research and development projects.