Skip to main content
Sign up for general email updates regarding the ATB
The 2023 Electricity ATB is live! Join the webinar to learn what's new. Register to attend or sign up for general email updates.

Pumped Storage Hydropower

Pumped storage hydropower does not calculate LCOE or LCOS, so do not use financial assumptions. Therefore all parameters are the same for the R&D and Markets & Policies Financials cases.

2023 ATB data for pumped storage hydropower (PSH) are shown above. Base Year capital costs and resource characterizations are taken from a national closed-loop PSH resource assessment completed under the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) HydroWIRES Project D1: Improving Hydropower and PSH Representations in Capacity Expansion Models. Resource assessment and cost assumptions are documented by (Rosenlieb et al., 2022) and subsequent updates are described on NREL's resource data web page: "Closed-Loop Pumped Storage Hydropower Supply Curves." The ATB considers only closed-loop systems due to their lower environmental impacts: open-loop and other configurations are not included in these estimates. Operation and maintenance (O&M) costs and round-trip efficiency are based on estimates for a 1,000-MW system reported in the 2020 DOE "Grid Energy Storage Technology Cost and Performance Assessment." (Mongird et al., 2020). Projected changes in capital costs are based on the DOE Hydropower Vision study (DOE, 2016) and assume different degrees of technology improvement and technological learning. 

The three scenarios for technology innovation are:

  • Conservative Technology Innovation Scenario (Conservative Scenario): no change from baseline CAPEX and O&M costs through 2050
  • Moderate Technology Innovation Scenario (Moderate Scenario): no change from baseline CAPEX and O&M  costs through 2050, consistent with the Reference case in the DOE Hydropower Vision study (DOE, 2016)
  • Advanced Technology Innovation Scenario (Advanced Scenario): CAPEX reductions of 12% by 2050 based on improved process and design improvements along with advanced manufacturing, new materials, and other technology improvements, consistent with Advanced Technology in the DOE Hydropower Vision study (DOE, 2016); no changes to O&M.

Resource Categorization

Resource categorization from a national closed-loop PSH resource assessment is described in detail by (Rosenlieb et al., 2022) with subsequent updates described on NREL's resource data web page: "Closed-Loop Pumped Storage Hydropower Supply Curves." Individual sites are identified using geospatial algorithms to delineate potential reservoir boundaries, exclude reservoirs that violate technical potential criteria (e.g., protected land, critical habitat), find all possible reservoir pairings, and then eliminate overlapping reservoirs to produce the least-cost set of nonoverlapping reservoir pairs. This procedure is done for alternative storage durations of 8, 10, and 12 hours. Underlying data are site-specific, but for the ATB, resource classes are binned by capital cost such that each class contains a roughly equal amount of total national PSH capacity potential. Binning is done at the national level for the data tables below, and other representations use region-specific cost bins to better represent the distribution of site characteristics in each region. Physical characteristics and capital cost statistics for each ATB class and a 10-hour storage duration are included in the table below. 

Resource Class Capacity and Capital Costs

ATB ClassTotal Number of Sites IdentifiedTotal Generating Capacity (GW)Site Generating Capacity (MW)Capital Cost
Class 16448791,3652838,673$2,015$1,438$2,178
Class 28528741,0263034,417$2,284$2,179$2,375
Class 39668749052563,621$2,451$2,375$2,519
Class 41,046874836 2142,531$2,584$2,520$2,645
Class 51,0928758012153,348$2,702$2,646$2,761
Class 61,0928758011782,315$2,815$2,761$2,865
Class 71,1258747771642,537$2,918$2,865$2,971
Class 81,1608747541573,739$3,024$2,971$3,076
Class 91,2058747261752,213$3,132$3,076$3,189
Class 101,2318757111572,315$3,250$3,190$3,309
Class 111,2618756941563,901$3,370$3,309$3,431
Class 121,3488746481502,499$3,498$3,431$3,568
Class 131,3818746331422,863$3,642$3,568$3,714
Class 141,4668755971261,906$3,798$3,714$3,881
Class 151,5628755601092,211$3,970$3,881$4,243

Resource Class Design Values

ATB ClassReservoir Volume (gigaliters)Hydraulic Head (m)Distance Between Reservoirs (m)
Class 18.41.653.8678309750   5,750    1,983    8,212 
Class 26.41.837.8669263750  5,887   1,868   8,238 
Class 35.71.620.4661280750  5,953   1,303   8,223 
Class 45.41.724.2650306750  5,968   1,935   8,206 
Class 55.31.541.2637208750  5,867   1,549   8,250 
Class 65.31.523.3629297750  5,839   1,338   8,227 
Class 75.41.640.9610231750  5,753   1,984   8,232 
Class 85.21.525.6597271750  5,646   1,370   8,249 
Class 95.21.631.4581206750  5,507      849   8,192 
Class 105.21.321.7561232750  5,366   1,449   8,249 
Class 115.21.334.9545204750  5,249   1,250   8,237 
Class 125.21.531.1515210750  4,969   1,570   8,112 
Class  4,775      900   8,137 
Class 145.31.622.4465207750  4,495   1,167   8,107 
Class  4,246      600   8,084 

Scenario Descriptions

Cost reductions in the Advanced Scenario reflect various types of technology innovations that could be applied to PSH facilities. These potential innovations, which are discussed in the DOE Hydropower Vision Roadmap (DOE, 2016), are largely similar to technology pathways for hydropower without pumping.

Summary of Technology Innovation: Advanced Scenario

 ModularityNew MaterialsEco-Friendly Pumps and TurbinesInnovative Closed-Loop Concepts
Technology DescriptionDrop-in systems that minimize civil works and maximize ease of manufactureAlternative materials for water diversion (e.g., penstocks)Innovative approaches to improved environmental performanceOff-river designs allowing better combined economic and environmental performance
ImpactsReduced civil works costReduced construction material costsReduced environmental mitigation costsReduced environmental costs and increased modularity and standardization
References(DOE, 2016)(DOE, 2016)(DOE, 2016)(DOE, 2016)

Scenario Assumptions

No explicit deployment assumptions or learning rates are used to define the Advanced Technology Innovation Scenario for PSH. All cost reductions are attributed to improved technology, processes, designs, and contracting along with advanced materials and improved construction practices. Deployed PSH capacity is 23 GW in the base year (2021), and the rate of cost reduction is 0.6 %/yr through 2035 and 0.2%/yr from 2035 to 2050.

Representative Technology

The resource assessment procedure requires several design specifications to be defined up front, and for the resource included in the ATB, these include hydraulic heads of 200 m–750 m, a maximum reservoir distance of 12 times the head height, and dam heights of 40 m, 60 m, 80 m, or 100 m (Rosenlieb et al., 2022) and "Closed-Loop Pumped Storage Hydropower Supply Curves" (NREL). Upper and lower reservoir volumes are also assumed to be within 10% of each other. Given the resulting technical specifications of each reservoir pair, the powerhouse (turbine, generator, and electrical equipment) can be sized flexibly for a given reservoir pair, and here data are included for a powerhouse sized to result in 8, 10, or 12 hours of storage duration (i.e., the maximum number of hours generating at rated capacity). 


This section describes the methodology to develop assumptions for CAPEX, O&M, and round-trip efficiency. 

Capital Expenditures (CAPEX)

Capital costs are first calculated for each site using the PSH cost model from Australia National University (Blakers et al., 2019), adjusted to use a 33% project contingency factor instead of the base 20% assumption to better align with other technologies and U.S. industry practice. The cost model uses reservoir and powerhouse characteristics as inputs to generalized equations for PSH overnight capital cost. These raw costs are then further calibrated to more closely match hydropower industry expectations by multiplying site costs by a factor equal to the ratio of the central CAPEX estimate in (Mongird et al., 2020) for a 1,000-MW, 10-hour facility to the median CAPEX of all sites in the capacity range of 900–1,100 MW (Mongird et al., 2020). This factor is equal to 1.51, and due to the limited amount of available cost data, this factor is applied uniformly to all sites. Grid connection costs are then added based on the distance from the powerhouse location (assumed at the lower reservoir) to the nearest high-voltage transmission line node  (Maclaurin et al., 2021). Cost assessment is described in detail by (Rosenlieb et al., 2022).

The maps below plot the median CAPEX in each state for each of the 15 resource classes when individual sites are binned by cost separately for each state. Some states have zero sites identified, largely due to insufficient elevation differences to meet the 200-m minimum head height criteria. The ratio of water conveyance length between reservoirs to head height (L/H ratio) is also shown for individual sites. The display also includes links to a bar chart and a tabular display. The bar chart shows more granular data for each balancing area defined in the Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS) capacity expansion model (Ho et al., 2021) along with the state average PSH capital cost. The table allows the data to be filtered by class and balancing area to view region- or class-specific data.

Regional PSH Capital Cost by Class


Operation and Maintenance (O&M) Costs

(Mongird et al., 2020) characterize PSH O&M costs using a literature review of recently published sources of PSH cost and performance data. For the 2023 ATB, we use cost estimates for a 1,000-MW plant, which has lower labor costs per power output capacity compared to a smaller facility. O&M costs also include component costs for standard maintenance, refurbishment, and repair. O&M cost reductions are not projected for future years because the relevant technical components are assumed to be mature, so they are constant and identical across all scenarios.

Round-Trip Efficiency

Round-trip efficiency is also based on a literature review by (Mongird et al., 2020), who report a range of 70%–87% across several sources. The value of 80% is taken as a central estimate, and no improvements are projected either in (Mongird et al., 2020) or here because the relevant technical components are assumed to be mature. Thus, round-trip efficiency is constant and identical across all scenarios. 


The following references are specific to this page; for all references in this ATB, see References.

Rosenlieb, Evan, Donna Heimiller, and Stuart Cohen. “Closed-Loop Pumped Storage Hydropower Resource Assessment for the United States.” Golden, CO: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2022.

Mongird, Kendall, Vilayanur Viswanathan, Jan Alam, Charlie Vartanian, Vincent Sprenkle, and Richard Baxter. “2020 Grid Energy Storage Technology Cost and Performance Assessment.” Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Energy, December 2020.

DOE. “Hydropower Vision: A New Chapter for America’s Renewable Electricity Source.” Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Energy, 2016.

Blakers, Andrew, Matthew Stocks, Bin Lu, Kirsten Anderson, and Anna Nadolny. “Global Pumped Hydro Atlas.” Australian National University, 2019.

Maclaurin, Galen, Nicholas Grue, Anthony Lopez, Donna Heimiller, Michael Rossol, Grant Buster, and Travis Williams. “The Renewable Energy Potential (ReV) Model: A Geospatial Platform for Technical Potential and Supply Curve Modeling.” Golden, CO: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2021.

Ho, Jonathan, Jonathon Becker, Maxwell Brown, Patrick Brown, Ilya (ORCID:0000000284917814) Chernyakhovskiy, Stuart Cohen, Wesley (ORCID:000000029194065X) Cole, et al. “Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS) Model Documentation: Version 2020.” Golden, CO: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, June 9, 2021.

Issue Type
Problem Text