A $3 billion plan from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power aims to turn the Hoover Dam into a giant battery, storing electricity generated by solar and wind energy, according to a recent article in The New York Times.
The plan calls for a downstream pump station to send water back up to the reservoir through a pipeline which would be used to manage electricity during peak demand times. If the plan is enacted, the pipeline could be completed by 2028, according to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which originally operated the dam when it built in 1936.
However, the proposal faces some obstacles, such as environmental concerns and potential opposition from communities along the Colorado River, which may be impacted by any changes in the flow of the river. Also, because the dam is on federal land, the U.S. Department of Interior must approve the proposed new use. The National Park Service will also need to review the environmental, scientific, and aesthetic aspects of the proposal.
A similar project was implemented at the hydroelectric plant at Pyramid Lake, 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The plant stores energy by relying on the electric grid to spin a turbine backward and pump water back into the lake.
The Hoover Dam plan comes at a time when California is attempting to decrease the use of coal-fired and nuclear energy. The hydroelectric energy storage solution is also seen as a less-expensive and more reliable option than lithium-base battery storage.