Closed-Loop Pumped Storage Hydropower Supply Curves

NREL has developed an interactive map and geospatial data showing closed-loop pumped storage hydropower (PSH) supply curves, which characterize the quantity, quality, and cost of closed-loop PSH resources.

The supply curves assume a 10-hour storage duration, dam heights of 40 meters, minimum head height of 300 meters, and maximum distance between upper and lower reservoirs of 15X head height (4.5 kilometers for 300 meters head). Future work will expand the data to include other specifications.

Interactive Map

Note: Please view the interactive map from a desktop computer to access it. It is not visible on mobile devices.

Geospatial Data

The 10-hour, closed-loop PSH geospatial data include paired reservoir volume (gigaliter), capacity (megawatts), distance between reservoirs (kilometer), head height (meter), transmission spurline distance (kilometer), transmission spurline costs ($), and total cost ($/kilowatt).

10-Hour, Closed-Loop Pumped Storage Hydropower Data

The data are provided in a Geopackage and CSV format.

Download Data

Supply Curves Development

NREL developed the PSH resource assessment and supply curves by adapting geospatial algorithms and a cost model developed for the Australia National University (ANU) Global Pumped Hydro Atlas. NREL adapted the model to reflect U.S.-specific inputs and modeling needs to better represent PSH technology development potential in tools such as NREL’s Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS) model.

Resource potential is often assessed in terms of geographic (or resource), technical, and economic potential—each of which represents a succession of additional complexity and input assumptions that leverage similar data and a common analysis flow.

This closed-loop PSH resource assessment is accomplished by first applying high-resolution digital elevation models (30-meter resolution) to identify potential upper and lower reservoirs within the technology parameters specified by the NREL adaptation of the ANU model. Design specifications include minimum 300-meter head height, constant 40-meter dam height, and a maximum distance between upper and lower reservoir of 15X head height. This yields a large set of potential reservoirs with many overlaps.

Once the reservoirs are delineated, technical potential criteria are applied to appropriately limit the development areas. The current criteria eliminate any reservoirs that intersect existing water bodies and waterways; protected federal lands; urban areas; critical habitat areas; or are within 1000 feet of a wetland.

The remaining upper and lower reservoirs after applying technical potential criteria are paired by comparing upper and lower reservoir capacity to be within 20% of each other, applying the 15X distance criteria, and finally evaluating total paired system cost. The paired reservoirs are then optimized for lowest cost systems to develop a non-overlapping reservoir data set for an assumed storage duration (10 hours in this data set). Total costs include both hydropower site and transmission development. The site development costs are taken from ANU’s pumped hydro energy storage cost model with costs adjusted to align with industry expectations published in 2020 Grid Energy Storage Technology Cost and Performance Assessment, U.S. Department of Energy Technical Report (2020). In addition, transmission spurline costs are taken from NREL analysis supporting the ReEDS model. See ReEDS Model Documentation Version 2020, NREL Technical Report (2021).

Ultimately, this exercise results in a spatially resolved characterization of the technical potential quantity, quality, and cost of PSH resources, which can be sorted to represent a "supply curve" for a specific scenario—10-hour storage duration for closed-loop systems in this case. The supply curve of closed-loop PSH cost versus cumulative capacity for the contiguous United States is reproduced from the Closed-Loop Pumped Storage Hydropower Resource Assessment for the United States. Resource and cost data binned by cost ranges is also included in the NREL Annual Technology Baseline beginning in the 2022 data year.

A scatter plot containing the closed-loop PSH supply curve for the contiguous United States, showing the cost in dollars per kilowatt, in order from lowest to highest, versus the cumulative capacity of the resource in gigawatts. Costs range from $1200 per kilowatt to $6700 per kilowatt over a total resource base of 2800 gigawatts.
Note: Costs are in 2018 U.S. dollars.


Learn more about NREL's renewable energy supply curves.


Closed-Loop Pumped Storage Hydropower Resource Assessment for the United States, NREL Technical Report (2022)

Advanced Hydropower and PSH Capacity Expansion Modeling, NREL Technical Report (2022)


Donna Heimiller

Researcher V, Geospatial Science

Evan Rosenlieb

Researcher III, Geospatial Science