Life Cycle Assessment for Closed-Loop Pumped Hydropower Energy Storage in the United States

Research output: NRELPresentation


The federal government has initiated an aggressive set of policies to achieve a net-zero carbon emission goal for the electricity sector by 2050. As a result, rapid growth in deployment of renewable energy technologies is expected. Most commercially mature technologies are temporally variable and do not provide grid inertia, while renewable technologies with high projected deployment have intermittent generation methods. Energy storage technologies are needed to both dispatch power on-demand and help provide the needed grid inertia. Pumped storage hydro (PSH) is a well-established technology that has gained renewed interest in recent years offering energy-balancing, grid stability, control of electrical network frequency, and large-scale storage capacity. For widespread adoption of PSH, more information is needed regarding its current life cycle environmental impacts. The objective of this study is to perform a full life cycle assessment (LCA) of new closed-loop PSH in the U.S. The functional unit for this study is 1 kWh of electrical power delivered to the grid and the base case project lifetime is 80 years. The life cycle inventory for this project accounts for all material and energy flows associated with the green-field construction, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning of a closed-loop PSH plant in the U.S. Collected data represents a range of potential PSH specifications and geographic locations coming from all prospective closed-loop PSH installations in the U.S. with data available. In addition, existing PSH installations are used to provide assumptions for inventory inputs. Results presented will include the global warming potential (GWP IPCC 100a) and Energy Return on Investment (EROI) from our base case (average PSH installation) as well as from scenario analyses and model sensitivity. These results will be compared to the impacts from existing PSH sites and alternate storage technologies. Methods align with the assumptions and guidelines put in place by previous PSH LCAs to ensure an accurate comparison with the results from this report.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages31
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NamePresented at Hydrovision International, 12-14 July 2022, Denver, Colorado

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-6A20-81315


  • life cycle assessment
  • life cycle inventory
  • pumped storage hydro
  • storage


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