China’s Pumped Storage Installations Reach 50 GW, Account for 30% of Global Capacity

China’s functional pumped storage capacity has touched 50 GW as of May 2023, representing 30% of global capacity and surpassing all other nations, according to data from the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA).

China has been constructing pumped-storage hydroelectric projects to enhance power grid adaptability and accommodate the expanding use of solar and wind energy. The country’s pumped-storage potential is poised for further expansion, with 89 GW of capacity currently in the construction phase.

Developers are in the process of acquiring governmental approvals, land rights, and financing for an additional 276 GW of pumped-storage initiatives, as per data from the Global Energy Monitor.

Pumped storage is a form of energy storage that operates by transferring water from a lower reservoir to a higher one during periods of low demand or surplus supply.

Subsequently, during times of high electricity demand or reduced supply, the water is released from the upper reservoir through a turbine, generating electricity as it flows into the lower reservoir.

This pumped-storage system acts akin to a large-scale battery, helping balance  excess electricity produced by solar and wind sources.

Maintaining an equilibrium between electricity production and consumption is essential for grid operators. However, solar and wind power generation hinges on weather conditions, making it less adaptable compared to other types of power projects.

Excess energy generated from these sources must be stored to prevent wastage. Pumped-storage facilities serve to store surplus solar and wind energy for later utilization, effectively mitigating the variability inherent in these renewable sources.

The EIA said adaptability holds particular significance for China, which has a substantial growing proportion of wind and solar energy in its energy mix.

In 2021, the combination of wind and solar power contributed to 12% of China’s total electricity generation, according to the International Energy Statistics.

China has established an ambitious goal of adding 160 GW of new solar and wind energy capacity in 2023, reflecting a 13.5% increase compared to the actual installations in 2022.

Pumped-storage initiatives offer distinct benefits in contrast to alternative storage methods like batteries. They involve minimal operational and maintenance expenses coupled with extensive operational lifespans. These projects can facilitate expansive, enduring energy storage on a substantial scale.

However, they can pose substantial initial construction expenses, while their establishment and operation may result in ecological and environmental challenges.

Recently, in a significant move to accelerate India’s renewable energy capacity, the government has introduced several initiatives to expedite the commissioning of pumped storage projects.

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