Friday, June 02, 2017

Pump Tech for Grid Connected Renewable Energy

The most recent article “Pumped on Power Storage” on May 30, 2017, discussed Hydroelectric Pumped Storage and its use as a ‘load balancing’ technology.  Hydroelectric Pumped Storage is gaining popularity.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently issued three licenses for new projects.  The new interest in Hydroelectric Pumped Storage systems is due in part to innovations that are bringing new versatility the technology. 
One of the innovators is Gridflex Energy, a privately-held company based in Idaho.  The company is behind not one but seven different projects totaling 32.8 gigawatt hours of energy storage potential.  An eighth project in Mason County, Kentucky already ran aground in the FERC application process.

Some investors might be disappointed to find that Gridflex does not lay claim to any particular knowhow or proprietary technology.  That does not mean there is no value in the company that could attract an investor.  The Gridflex management team is composed of individuals well-schooled in renewable energy and the utility industry.  Perhaps more importantly, each of the three senior executives with Gridflex has considerable project management experience.  Any investor should be delighted to find a deep bench with the ability to wrangle a multifaceted project to success.
The Energy Storage Association counts 40 Hydroelectric Pumped Storage facilities in the U.S. with the capacity to store more than 20 gigawatts or just over 2% of the country’s electrical generating capacity.  Hydroelectric Pumped Storage has a deeper penetration in the Europe with 5% and Japan with 10%.   These figures differ from the score kept by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
How ever many systems there are in operation, Hydroelectric Pumped Storage has much to offer a modern grid infrastructure.  Most of the installed capacity was put into operation for the sake of load balancing between peak and off-peak periods.  As power sources have diversified to include intermittent renewable power generation, pumped storage has been able to provide other benefit.  Pumped storage plants can respond rapidly to electrical load changes called ‘ramping’, thus providing a level of stability to modern electrical grids that might not otherwise be achieved.    This is called ‘capacity firming’, that is achieving fairly constant output from a combination of intermittent renewable power sources.  This reduces the need to purchase high-cost power from ‘dispatchable’ power sources such as coal or oil-fired power plants and opens the door to accepting power from renewable energy systems with a low marginal cost.         
As renewable power sources proliferate expect to see more and more interest in Hydroelectric Pumped Storage.  This could place more opportunity in front of the management team of Gridflex Energy.  Even as a private company it should be on the watch list of investors with an interest in renewable energy.

Neither the author of the Small Cap Strategist web log, Crystal Equity Research nor its affiliates have a beneficial interest in the companies mentioned herein.

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