Canada has more than 8,000 GW of pumped storage potential

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30 Aug 2023

Canada has more than 8,000 GW of pumped storage potential
Canada has more than 8,000 GW of pumped storage potential

Our research group recently collaborated with Stantec, the Centre for Energy Advancement through Technological Innovation (CEATI) and the Power Advisory (PA) to quantify the total pumped hydro potential in Canada, for WaterPower Canada. The results of this study are now available online.

this report was prepared to support the net zero emissions electricity supply by 2035 goal in Canada, and the net zero economy by 2050 goal.

The conclusions of the report included:

  • PSH is a mature technology that is based on conventional hydro technology. Sites with higher hydraulic head are generally more attractive because of their energy density and availability of water is a prerequisite. The technological and environmental aspects of PSH development are well refined.
  • Machinery can be configured using reversible pump-turbines, ternary or quaternary arrangements, each having their own advantages, but costs favour the pump-turbine. The determination of equipment configuration is based on the optimization of the needs of the power system and market opportunities.
  • Sites could use existing reservoirs or natural waterbodies as storage reservoirs. However, off-river, closed-loop systems offer advantages in environmental impact and operational independence.
  • The characteristic of PSH to be able to respond quickly to load changes or the variability of nondispatchable renewable generation such as wind and solar power, underscore PSH’s role as stabilizingbackbone of a power grids, especially as non-dispatchable renewable energy penetration is increasing.
  • The international context suggests that Canada needs urgent action to develop PSH if a 100% renewable energy generation mix is to be attained by 2035 or even 2050.
  • In certain regions of Canada, where development of green hydrogen is being considered, alignment of this technology with PSH and sources of variable renewable energy could be synthesized to provide an overall benefit to the Canadian energy portfolio of the future.
  • The Theoretical Potential for PSH in Canada is for all practical purpose inexhaustible with over 100,000 identified sites and over 200 TW (200,000 GW) of capacity possible.
  • This potential is distributed unequally throughout the country with British Columbia taking by far the largest portion followed by Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • The geographic distribution of this Theoretical Potential is also well correlated with the wind resource in the country providing the possibility of using this synergy for fully renewable and dispatchable renewable electricity generation.
  • To determine the Realistic Potential an approach was employed that categorized 10% of the Theoretical Potential sites with a medium Realistic Potential and 1% with a high Realistic Potential
  • The resulting cumulative high Realistic Potential across Canada amounts to over 8 TW (8,000 GW) installed capacity at almost 1,200 site locations.
  • Among those sites about 85% are realistic to be developed in the near future before 2035 based on the established time constraints for permitting of the PSH and transmission assets provided that development efforts were to commence today.
  • The Realistic Potential is unequally distributed with similar countrywide patterns as the Theoretical Potential: British Columbia in the lead followed by Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador
  • The PSH sites currently undergoing actual development are highly concentrated in two provinces: Ontario and Alberta.

Along with our global studies, we have completed several in-country and desktop studies of pumped hydro capacity.

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