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Technology Update: Pumped Hydroelectric Energy Storage

Hydro-electric energy storage is used to store energy from “off-peak” times of the day when the demand for energy is low, and then utilize the energy when the demand for energy has increased during the “peak” times of the day.  For example, the low-cost, surplus, power that is created during times of 10 pm to 7 am would pump water from a low elevation to a higher elevation. Then, when the demand for electricity is at its peak, between the hours of 2 pm to 8 pm, the water would be released through turbines to create energy.  

Pumped hydroelectric storage systems have added the potential for renewably produced sources. Solar energy has the drawback of only producing energy during times when the sun is up.  Excess energy produced by a solar array during the day could pump water u, then once the sun has set, the water would be released over a period of time to power consumers throughout the night.

Pumped storage is the largest form of utility-scale energy storage in the world, it claims a capacity of over 184 Gigawatts. This accounts for 95% of all grid energy storage worldwide according to the United States Department of Energy Storage Database.  

The primary disadvantage of pumped hydroelectric storage is that there are specific site requirements for the storage system to be effective. The system must be in a location close to the end consumer, to avoid transmission reduction, and also in a hilly or mountainous environment.  This creates environmental and social concerns, as the local population often views these regions as scenic areas.

An exciting opportunity to avoid this disadvantage is to utilize old mines. This would pump water from lower mines to the surface at off-peak times, then during peak demand times, would let the water fall engaging the turbines and falling back to the bottom of the mines.

Dive deeper with a report from the

Energy Storage Association

View the Global Energy Storage Database


Policy Review: Solar on Schools

House Proposal HF 1133 and Senate Proposal SF 1424

The purpose of the Solar on Schools bill is to establish a platform that will reduce the cost of solar energy systems for schools. The Solar on Schools bill addresses the opportunity to create a, statewide, school grant program, which would be directed to fund solar energy systems on schools and other public buildings.

The grant would fund programs, which will initiate a lease project where investors would pay the initial cost of solar energy systems on school buildings. The schools would make annual payments under a payment agreement.  Once the investors have taken advantage of some of the financial benefits, such as tax credits and depreciation, the school district could purchase the system from the leaser. The bill would be funded from the renewable development fund as well as from the general fund for the fiscal year of 2020.

This would create a technique in which investors handle upfront costs for a solar energy system, in order to benefit from certain fiscal incentives; while school districts receive energy saving and long-term investment profits. This bill is well supported on both sides of the aisle and has a good chance of passing into law. Some added benefits include a financial boost to Minnesota’s renewable energy industry through an increase of projects, as well an increase of solar energy awareness from the general public through youth education.

For more information on the Solar on Schools bill visit the Minnesota Legislature website!