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The Global Potential of Pumped Hydro Storage in Former Mining Areas


Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) have developed a comprehensive global atlas that identifies potential pumped hydro storage sites in former mining areas. By repurposing mining sites, these reservoirs can provide a sustainable solution for energy storage.


Mining sites offer unique advantages for pumped hydro storage due to their proximity to power networks and existing water pumping infrastructure. The researchers highlight that shaping a mining site into a pumped hydro reservoir can be a cost-effective alternative to traditional mining operations.


The research team conducted an extensive analysis using Geographic Information System (GIS) and Forest And Buildings removed Copernicus DEM (FABDEM) techniques. They assessed over 9,400 sites, ranging from mining pits and pit lakes to tailings ponds and nearby reservoirs. These efforts led to the identification of 904 suitable locations across 77 countries, forming the Brownfield Atlas.


It is important to note that none of the identified sites utilize a mining site reservoir as the upper reservoir. The researchers emphasize that water quality, unstable slopes within the reservoir, land-use restrictions, mining rights, and future mining potential must also be taken into account when repurposing mining sites.


The Brownfield Atlas expands upon the Greenfield Atlas, developed earlier in 2021. The Greenfield Atlas featured 616,818 potential pumped hydro storage sites worldwide, with a capacity of 23.1 million GWh. This latest research builds on previous work from April 2019, where the research group identified 530,000 locations for 22 million GWh of pumped-hydro storage capacity.


The Brownfield Atlas, showcased in the study "A global atlas of pumped hydro systems that repurpose existing mining sites," offers valuable insights and opportunities for repurposing former mining areas into effective and sustainable pumped hydro storage sites. This research lays the foundation for leveraging these sites to meet the growing global demand for reliable and renewable energy storage solutions.

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