What is pumped-hydro storage? Andhra Pradesh is set to approve 12 more plants as part of its green energy drive

The pumped-hydro storage plants are expected to come up in eight districts, with a combined capacity of about 15,000 MW.

BySumit Jha

Published Jun 22, 2023 | 10:15 AMUpdatedJun 22, 2023 | 11:18 AM

Andhra Pradesh Pumped Hydro Storage Plants

The Andhra Pradesh government is in the final stage of approving 12 pumped-hydro storage plants with a total estimated capacity of 15,000 megawatts (MW) in the state.

The move is part of the government’s Pumped Storage Power Promotion Policy announced in December 2022. The policy aims at developing such projects, attracting investments, and achieving the goal of purchasing 43.33 percent of the total energy requirement from Renewable Energy (RE) sources by 2030.

The 12 pumped-storage plants will help increase the renewable energy capacity and meet the state’s growing demand for electricity. The projects align with the state government’s commitment to increasing renewable energy generation in the state, sources privy to the matter told South First.

Also read: Chief Minister Jagan underscores state focus on green energy

Locations of the plants

The proposed plants are to be set up in Kurnool, Prakasam, West Godavari, East Godavari, Krishna, Chittoor, Kadapa, and Vizianagaram districts. The source said he could confirm the names of the 12 companies that would set up the plants only after final clearance.

Initially, the Andhra Pradesh Power Generation Corporation (AP Genco) and Adani projects were cleared for developing pumped-storage plants in the state.

On 14 June, the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) gave clearance to AP Genco for setting up a 1,350 MW pumped-hydro storage plant on the Upper Sileru River in the Alluri Sitarama Raju district.

The CEA approval is the final stage of clearance from the Union government before commencing the work of these projects. With this clearance, AP Genco will commence the development of the project.

The Adani Group has already commenced setting up the Gandikota pumped-storage project (1,000 MW) in the YSR Kadapa district.

Also read: Greenko supplied ‘landmark’ 4,950 KVA ‘clean energy’ at E-Prix

What are pumped-hydro storage plants?

A pumped-storage plant generates electricity by allowing water to fall through a turbine generator. Once the pumped-storage plant generates electricity, it pumps that water from its lower reservoir back to the upper reservoir — unlike conventional hydropower projects where the water flows downriver.

Pumped-storage plants are a type of energy storage system that utilises the potential energy of water to store and generate electricity. They are typically built in hilly or mountainous regions where there are two reservoirs located at different elevations.

Pumped-hydro storage plants are characterised by their high energy storage capacity, longer lifespan, and relatively low operational costs.

They can store large amounts of energy for extended periods, making them suitable for balancing the intermittency of renewable energy sources and providing backup power during peak demand periods.

Overall, pumped hydro storage plants play a crucial role in the integration of renewable energy into the power grid and the overall stability and reliability of the electricity supply system.

These plants can store energy from renewable sources, such as solar and wind power, when there is excess generation, and then release it when there is a demand.

“By addressing the storage problem, these plants will contribute to increasing renewable energy capacity,” a source told South First.

According to New & Renewable Energy Development Corporation of Andhra Pradesh Limited (NREDCAP), the potential capacity of pumped-storage hydro power projects in Andhra Pradesh is estimated to be 34,000 MW. This is equivalent to energy generated by 34 large thermal power plants.

Also read: Andhra Pradesh to emerge as India hub for green energy

A leap towards RE sector

The development of pumped-storage plants is one of the crucial initiatives of the YSRCP-led state government.

NREDCAP Managing Director S Ramana Reddy told South First that the corporation has identified 30 sites for pumped-storage projects with a total capacity of 33,240 MW across the state. “Of these, detailed project reports for 14 such projects (including AP Genco and Adani’s) are being finalised,” he said.

NREDCAP is the nodal agency for implementing these projects. It prepares detailed project reports, acquire land and hand them over to the developers.

The state government has already granted permission to eligible developers (as per conditions in the policy for these 14 projects) through bidding processes.

Reddy said that the state government under Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy is promoting pumped-storage plants to meet the energy storage requirements of the growing renewable energy capacity.

Related: Tribals protest pumped storage projects in Schedule-5 regions

Retiring to Save: A potential RE state

Andhra Pradesh can save over ₹76,000 crore in the coming decade by retiring old coal units as part of a planned energy transition, while still meeting the state’s growing energy requirements, according to research by think tank, Climate Risk Horizons.

The report, titled Retiring to Save, highlighted three factors that make Andhra Pradesh an ideal candidate to lead the energy transition: Surplus coal power capacity, extremely cheap renewables coupled with falling costs of battery storage systems, and the 2025 deadline for mandatory coal plant retrofits.

“With its plentiful renewable resources and proactive energy policies, our analysis suggests that careful planning and investments can allow Andhra Pradesh to start phasing out old coal plants at a net reduction in power purchase costs, resulting in long term financial benefits for DISCOMs and the state government”, Ashish Fernandes, CEO of Climate Risk Horizons, said in a statement.

The study estimated that retiring eight coal units totalling 1,680 MW at the Rayalseema Thermal Power Station, Cuddapah, and Dr Narla Tata Rao Thermal Power Station, Vijayawada, could yield savings of ₹9,500 crore over five years.

It further estimated that in the longer term, if scheduled generation from all plants with tariffs at ₹4/kilowatt hour (kWh) or higher were to be gradually replaced with power from renewables at an average of ₹2.7/kWh, there would be an additional potential savings of over ₹57,000 crores over 10 years.

These savings could go a long way in augmenting the state’s revenue and help cover the cost of providing free electricity for agriculture, free water pumps, subsidised solar installations and cash transfers to farmers.

“With the significant rise in installed power capacity over the last decade, the state now has surplus generation capacity in the state, with coal plants running at less than 60 percent Plant Load Factor,” Vishnu Teja of Climate Risk Horizons, who co-authored the report, said.

“Due to fresh capacity addition in the pipeline (both renewables and thermal) retiring the older coal units will not impact ability to meet electricity demand growth. AP’s ambitious renewable energy programme will enable the state to meet even aggressive projections for electricity demand growth from clean energy alone,” he added.

Also read: Scientists develop tech to produce green hydrogen from biomass

Leader in green energy

Andhra Pradesh is  at the forefront in production of renewable energy for a sustainable future. The state government has made it easier for industries to seamlessly produce green energy in the state.

The government is facilitating the setting up of the world’s largest integrated renewable energy storage power project in the Kurnool district.

The project, located at Gummitham Tanda, undertaken by Greenko Group, aims at generating 5,230 MW of electricity. It is scheduled to be commissioned by 2023 end.

In March, the state government signed 352 Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with companies getting investments worth ₹13.05 lakh crore during the Global Investors’ Summit 2023 held in Visakhapatnam. These investments are estimated to provide jobs to over six lakh people in the renewable energy sector.

According to the source, officials have so far identified and surveyed 80,000 acres for solar, wind, and solar-wind hybrid projects across the state.

Interestingly, the total installed capacity of renewable modes of energy reached 26,000 MW, an increase of 252 percent compared to the installed capacity of 7,380.66 MW in 2019.

The state has 3,050 MW of installed solar energy capacity from its solar parks, the highest in the country, as per the official data from the Union Ministry of New & Renewable Energy.

The Ananthapuramu-I Solar Park (1,400 MW), Kurnool Solar Park (1,000 MW), Kadapa Solar Park (250 MW), and Ananthapuramu-II (400 MW) are the largest solar parks in the state.

Green hydrogen hub

Official sources said the government is set to introduce a Green Hydrogen Policy for industry players.

In the last week of May, the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) began work to develop a hydrogen hub near Visakhapatnam. The NTPC and the state government had earlier signed an MoU for the project.

The project will involve setting up manufacturing facilities for hydrogen-related equipment, production, and export of green hydrogen and green ammonia.

In March, the state government signed another MoU to set up multiple decentralised green hydrogen production plants in the state with an investment of ₹1,500 crore.