Month: September 2018

Pump Storage Hydro at the Hoover Dam

Pump Storage Hydro at the Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam, one of the most iconic structures in the USA, could be converted into a pumped storage hydro project according to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). The project which would cost upwards of $3 billion would install a pumping station approximately 20 miles downstream from the existing dam and would use solar and wind resources to move the water back up to Lake Mead.

With a capacity of 2080MW the Hoover Dam is one of the largest hydroelectric plants in the USA and being located 25miles from the Las Vegas Strip it is within close proximity of one of the country‘s largest electric power markets. The dam however only runs at approximately 20% of its capacity due to a number of reasons including water management issues and drought related low water levels.

LADWP’s plan aims to make better use of the Hoover Dam facility by using it as part of a pumped hydro storage plant. Most pumped hydro plants pump water into a holding reservoir when demand is slack and electricity prices are low. The water is released through turbines to generate power when demand, and prices, rise.

Although LADWP’s plan has enormous potential, it’s still in its early stages. “We are doing some initial assessments and engineering assessments,” said Sam Mannan, a project manager at LADWP.

Although the majority of pump storage hydro facilities house both the energy generating turbines and the pumping station at the same location this project, should it come to fruition, would use an external pumping station at site not yet determined, approximately 20 miles from the dam, powered by wind turbines and solar generation facilities.

The project would therefore work on two levels, one to generate on demand electric energy which can be added to grid as and when required, and secondly to help LADWP, and California, manage the growing amount of renewable energy on its grid. The state has a goal of meeting 50% of its electrical needs with renewable resources by 2030. That goal comes with challenges, however. Often more solar power is generated during the middle of the day than is needed. When the sun goes down, it leaves a gap that has to be quickly filled by other generation sources, often gas-fired peaking plants.

A renewables-driven pumped storage plant could absorb excess renewable energy and store it as impounded water until demand rises. Then, the water is released and run through turbines to generate power.

There is still much to be determined before the project can be launched but the LADWP are confident that when ready it will be a successful addition to the country’s pump storage portfolio.

At ILI Energy we believe that pump storage hydro aligned with renewable energy installations will play a huge role in future peak demand electricity generation. It makes perfect sense, at times of low demand renewable energy can be used to pump the water to the higher of the two water sources and then when required at high peak times, can quickly provide large quantities of electricity to the grid.

Using existing infrastructure such as the Hoover dam will help reduce costs as well continue to use installations, which through no fault of their own, can no longer provide the high levels of energy required

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