Pumped Storage Hydropower is Superior to Regular Dams

Pumped Storage Hydropower is Superior to Regular Dams

Pumped Storage Hydropower

Pumped storage hydropower (PSH) is a renewable energy technology that uses the power of water to generate electricity. When water is pumped from a lower reservoir to a higher one, it can be used to turn turbines, which in turn produce power. PSH is an important part of the renewable energy portfolio because it’s intermittent – meaning that it can only generate power during peak hours – and doesn’t require large amounts of land or costly infrastructure.

What is Pumped Storage Hydropower

Pumped storage hydropower (PSH) is a type of hydroelectric power plant in which water is pumped from a lower reservoir to a higher reservoir, then released to flow back down through the turbines. The difference between the two reservoirs changes the hydraulic head, or pressure, at the turbine inlet and thus how much power the turbines can generate.

The first pumped storage plant was built in 1907 in Switzerland. Since that time, PSH has increased in popularity because it has many advantages over other types of hydroelectric plants. For example, PSH can be used to generate power even when there isn’t enough water available in an upstream reservoir.

The Big Chino Valley project in Arizona is the biggest pump storage plant in the U.S and is currently under development. Once completed, it will have an installed capacity of 2,000 MW.

Types of Pumped Storage Plants

Pumped storage hydropower (PSH) is a clean, renewable energy source that can be used to generate power when the demand for electricity is high and the available resources are dwindling. There are two types of PSH: open loop and closed loop pump storage plants.

Open Loop Hydropower Plants

Open Loop Pump Storage Plants use water from a river or other natural source of flowing water to fill an artificial reservoir (a dam). This artificial reservoir is situated below the main “power plant” and is dubbed the lower reservoir. Flowing water is pumped from the lower reservoir to the upper reservoir, which increases the gravitational potential energy of the water. This is then used to generate electricity, by releasing it downstream.

In an open-loop power station, the lower reservoir can also be treated as a regular hydroelectric dam to increase efficiency. There are flood gates that release water downstream that can be retrofitted to generate electricity.

Closed Loop Hydropower Plants

A closed-loop system is more commonly known as a hydroelectric power system that has a controlled volume of recirculating water that circulates continuously from within. This specific system consists of jets that are really powerful and are released directly from the main penstock as soon as it undergoes a high-water hammer pressure.

Pumped Storage Hydropower

This system contains a number of supplementary pipes that are used to bring the water from the reservoir directing it to the main penstock during the high vacuum phase. This happens right after the expulsion of the immense volume of water that comes from the penstock.

Benefits of Pumped Storage Hydroelectricity

There are numerous benefits that come with pumped storage hydropower, we have put together a list that addresses the most significant reasons why countries opt to build PSH:

1. It is a renewable source of energy. This is true for all hydropower. We can never really run out of water as quickly as we are going to run out of fossil fuels.

2. It can generate power during hours of high demand, like during peak hours when the grid needs more power, and then be used to store the energy for later use.

3. It is always available, unlike other forms of hydropower. Even when there isn’t enough rain to fill up a reservoir, they can still draw on water from the lower reservoir.

4. There is a reduced risk of flooding since most of the water is kept in the lower reservoir, which is much closer to sea level than regular hydroelectric dams.

5. Pumped storage hydropower is environmentally friendly, as it does not produce greenhouse gases. Once more, this applies to all forms of hydropower.

6. Pumped storage hydropower is cheaper than some forms of electricity generation, such as coal or natural gas. However, it is not as cost-efficient as solar power.

Drawbacks of Pumped Storage Hydroelectricity

There are a few major drawbacks to pumped storage hydropower:

1. It can be much less efficient than other forms of hydropower. This is because the efficiency of a pumped storage facility is based on the difference in water levels between the upper and lower reservoirs. When the water level in the reservoir falls, more power is needed to raise it back to its original level, which itself consumes power.

2. Open Loop Pumped storage facilities can be relatively inefficient when drawing power from the river at high flow rates. In these cases, the pumps need to run constantly in order to keep up with the high flow rate, which reduces overall efficiency.

3. A major drawback is that it can be quite an expensive proposition. To build a pumping station capable of pumping water to an upper reservoir in order to generate power from a river. You need to invest significant money into both the construction and operation of the facility.

4. Pumped Storage Hydropower plants require a large amount of space; typically, an entire valley or mountain range, which can be difficult to come by. In fact, some experts believe that pumped storage hydropower may eventually become commercially unviable due to these costs.


As the world continues to become increasingly aware of the dangers of climate change, it is crucial that we find ways to reduce our carbon footprint. One way to do this is by using renewable energy sources such as pumped storage hydropower.

Hydropower is undoubtedly a clean and efficient way of generating power. However, unlike other sources of renewable energy, it is not always available. Most dams require rain to fill up, and building dams across rivers is inefficient since they are mostly at sea level.

Pumped Storage Hydropower Plants

Pumped storage hydropower plants solve the availability problem regular dams come with. It does this by pumping water from a lower reservoir to an upper reservoir, where it can be released in controlled amounts to generate power. They come in two kinds of pumped storage hydropower plants: closed-loop and open-loop.

You can learn more about hydropower at Four Earths. Make yourself comfortable and enjoy a good read.

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