There Are More Than 500,000 Potential Wind and Solar Energy Storage Spaces on Earth, Study Finds

There are 530,000 potential PHES sites on the planet.

Sophie Hirsh - Author

Apr. 9 2019, Updated 10:13 a.m. ET

wind power reserves
Source: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Don't let President Trump's comments regarding wind energy fool you. Renewable energy is very much on the rise in the U.S. — in fact, it actually about doubled over the past decade across the country. And according to a new report, there are approximately 530,000 potential pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) sites around the world, disproving arguments that there isn't enough space to store wind and solar energy reserves.

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For a little more background, PHES is "the most widespread and mature utility-scale storage technology currently available and it is likely to remain a competitive solution for modern energy systems based on high penetration of solar PV and wind energy," according to another study on the topic, published in February 2019 by ScienceDirect. Essentially, PHES sites are the most common ways of storing wind and solar energy.

As reported by Smart-Energy, the new report was conducted by a group of researchers at Australian National University’s RE100 Group, led by Professor Andrew Blakers. Notably, the authors of the new study explained that PHES is much more affordable than other means of large-scale energy storage, and that there are way more potential storage sites than the Earth requires. "We found about 530,000 potentially feasible PHES sites with storage potential of about 22 million Gigawatt-hours (GWh) by using geographic information system (GIS) analysis," reads the study. "This is about 100 times greater than required to support a 100 percent global renewable electricity system."

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Matthew Stocks, a researcher who worked on the new study, further explained the findings in layman's terms when speaking with ScienceAlert. "Only a small fraction of the 530,000 potential sites we've identified would be needed to support a 100 percent renewable global electricity system," Stocks told the outlet. "We identified so many potential sites that much less than the best 1 percent will be required. The perception has been there are limited sites for pumped hydro around the world, but we have found hundreds of thousands."

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It's important to realize the potential for renewable energy storage, especially in light of the comments President Trump has recently made regarding the topic. "And if [the wind] doesn't blow, you can forget about television for that night," Trump said in a speech in late March. "'Darling, I want to watch television.' 'I'm sorry! The wind isn't blowing.' I know a lot about wind. I know a lot about wind." 

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Luckily for the planet (and for television fans), those claims are untrue, as wind-generated electricity energy can be stored — and there are about 530,000 potential places to build storage.

Another recent study, conducted by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). found that the nation's use of renewable energy nearly doubled over the last 10 years. Not to mention, wind and solar power made up 90 percent of that increase, meaning wind and solar power use increased fivefold between 2008 and 2018, as per Grist. At that rate, the planet is going to need many more sites for renewable energy reserves, and this new research regarding the abundance of potential PHES sites could help get the ball rolling.

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