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Hydro energy storage gets a major boost in China's plans to go green

Quadruples target it had set just three months ago.

Hydro energy storage gets a major boost in China's plans to go green
Three Gorges Dam near Yichang City, Hubei Province, China. menabrea/iStock

China is set to massively scale up its plans for hydro energy storage with a national construction company unveiling plans of constructing 200 pumped hydro stations in the country, to be made operational by 2025, Bloomberg reported

With an aim to peak its carbon emissions in 2030, China has to work aggressively to bring down its reliance on fossil fuels for its power needs. The country is betting on solar and wind energy plants to take over in the near future. However, renewable sources of energy have their limitations, and for the country with the highest power demand in the world, these limitations can be crippling. 

China is therefore looking for energy storage solutions that can help it tide over shortages of energy when the wind is not blowing, or the Sun isn't shining on the solar panels in the country. According to the Bloomberg report, China is also investing heavily in battery storage, with about 100GW of storage energy capacity planned by 2030. In addition to that, China seems keen to tap into the potential of hydro energy storage too. 

What is Hydro Energy Storage?

Hydro energy storage, also called pumped storage hydropower, uses the energy from renewable sources to pump water to a high lever reservoir during times of low power demand and high power availability. When renewable power generation capacity reduces but demand increases, for instance, at night, the stored water is released and passes through turbines to generate power.

The concept isn't new and was used in Italy and Switzerland as far back as the 1890s, according to the Energy.gov website. It has been in use in the U.S. 1930s and also around the world. As of 2019, the hydro energy storage capacity of the world stood at 158 GW. 

China's plans with hydro energy storage

Since last year, China has been eyeing to tap into hydro energy storage. The National Energy Administration (NEA) of China has pegged the country's hydro energy storage potential at a whopping  680 GW, Bloomberg reported. Later in the year, an NEA document called for the installation of 120 GW of storage capacity by 2030. 

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In its 14th five-year plan for energy development, which was released just three months ago, Chinese officials planned for 62 GW of hydrogen energy storage to be operational by 2025, with work initiated for another 60 GW by that time. 

With the recent announcement of constructing more than 200 pumped hydro stations, the Power Construction Corporation of China aims to build a combined capacity of 270 GW by 2025. That is over four times the plan five-year plan had set just three months ago. This would meet as much as 23 percent of the country's peak demand. Also, to put into perspective, this is more than the combined capacity of all power plants in Japan.

This is definitely a shot in the arm for China's plans to go carbon neutral by 2060 and also paves the way for the country to strengthen its efforts toward building solar and wind power plants for its energy needs, such as the 450 GW power generation capacity in Gobi desert. 

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