We've just got massive news in the ongoing drive to switch to renewable energy: Scientists have identified 530,000 locations worldwide suitable for pumping hydro-energy storage, capable of storing more than enough energy to power the entire planet .
Pumped-Hydro is one of the best technologies we have for storing intermittent renewable energy, such as solar energy, which means these areas can act as giant batteries, which help support cheap, fully renewable power grids.
As of Now, the sites have only been identified by an algorithm, so it must be done further on the site. But it was previously believed that there were only limited suitable places around the world and that we would not be able to store enough renewable energy for high demand times ̵[ads1]1; as this study shows is not the case at all.
Added together, these hundreds of thousands of websites have the potential to store around 22 million Gigawatt hours (GWh) of energy.
"It is more than enough to make the whole world Going on Renewable Energy Only a small portion of the 530,000 potential sites we've identified would be needed to support a 100 percent renewable global electricity system, says one of the researchers in the study, Matthew Stocks of the Australian National University (ANU) .  "We identified so many potential websites that much less than the best 1 percent would be needed. The perception has been that there are limited places for pumped hydro around the world, but we have found hundreds of thousands. "
The sites identified will rely mainly on solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind power to pump uphill when renewable energy is abundant. If energy is needed, the water will be released and pulled down by gravity to drive turbines and generate electricity.
Global copies ” width=”700″ style=”width: 100%;”/> Hydro storage sites (STORES) were identified by a combination of algorithms that run on geographic data – these algorithms mean that large areas can be combed for potential areas much faster
Places with enough space, suitable terrain, and the correct variations in height were highlighted by algorithms.
The STORES areas identified will continue to be properly assessed for land ownership and any technical or environmental challenges give they may present. You can see a complete map of the sites here.
A few years ago, the same team identified 22,000 STORES sites in Australia. In this new study, they have expanded the analysis worldwide, while aligning the algorithms used to find sites with both upper and lower reservoir sites, and a possible route for a connection tunnel.
The latest discovery has not yet been published, but the same algorithm was peer-reviewed and published last year.
With the adjusted algorithms, only 3,000 of the best Australian websites made the cut – so we're talking about 527,000 locations worldwide. With the right development, we can meet our renewable energy needs many times.
The team has uploaded details of their work and maps showing the sites on a dedicated site. None of the potential sites are located in national parks or urban areas, and each has the potential to hold 2-150 GWh of energy.
What makes the pump-hydro-energy storage so appealing is that it can be adapted as the current requirements change. Water stored in the reservoir can be discharged when needed – for example, when much power is needed or when solar and wind technology do not generate enough power.
When the requirements are lower, water can be driven back uphill to the reservoir using excess electricity generated by wind and sunshine and stored for later.
Cooling water is not required as it is in fossil fuel systems, which means that the electricity requirements of the plant itself are reduced, and of course there are no greenhouse gas emissions. The consequences for the environment are kept down because it does not involve any natural river systems.
The researchers say that places they have identified can operate with maximum effect for between 5 and 25 hours. It is also an advantage for this type of hydropower: it can start up quickly.
"Pumped-hydroenergy storage can go from zero to full force extremely fast – it only takes a few minutes," one of the team, Andrew Blakers of ANU, says.
"Pumped Hydro accounts for 97 percent of energy storage worldwide, has a typical lifetime of 50 years and is the lowest cost of high energy storage technology available."
The team's previous work on the Australian territories was published in the journal Applied Energy.