Pumped Storage Hydropower
January 31, 2023
11AM to 12PM Pacific Time / 2PM to 3PM Eastern Time
On this field trip, we explored the landscape of pumped storage hydropower (PSH) in the U.S. and how it supports long duration energy storage goals. The field trip included a tour of New York Power Authority’s (NYPA) Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Project which uses energy to pump water from one large reservoir to another at a higher altitude, and then releases the water to flow through turbines via gravity to generate electricity when needed, therefore acting as a giant rechargeable battery! We also heard about PSH cutting-edge research, diving deep into ways this energy storage technology can serve as a grid transmission asset and more.
About the Speakers
Johanna Nelson Weker, Field Trip Moderator
Lead Scientist | SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
Johanna Nelson Weker is a lead scientist at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and an energy storage expert. Her research focuses on synchrotron-based X-ray characterization of materials and systems far from equilibrium. Her work spans a range of topics including electrochemical energy storage, catalysis, and additive manufacturing. In addition to leading a vibrant research group, she helps run the transmission X-ray microscopy on beamline 6-2 at Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL). Dr. Nelson Weker graduated in 2005 with a B.S. in mathematics and physics from Muhlenberg College, a small liberal arts college in Allentown, PA. In 2010, she received a Ph.D. in physics from Stony Brook University on Long Island, NY, where she studied Coherent Diffractive Imaging (CDI) with X-rays, microscopy technique that eliminates the need for X-rays lenses. Since then, Dr. Nelson Weker has been working at the Stanford Synchrotron Lightsource, first as a postdoc using x-rays to study Li-ion batteries under operating conditions and later as a staff scientist in the Materials Science Division at SLAC.
Samuel Bockenhauer, PSH Expert
HydroWIRES Initiative Lead | EERE Water Power Technologies Office, U.S. Department of Energy
Sam Bockenhauer leads the HydroWIRES Initiative in DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office. As the office’s $15M grid integration program, HydroWIRES focuses on understanding the value hydropower can provide to the power system, how best to operate hydropower in a flexible way to integrate variable renewables such as wind and solar, and what technology innovations are needed to enable more flexible operation. He also leads the office’s international work on hydropower, serving as Chair of the IEA Hydropower Technology Collaboration Programme and leading the US-Norway MOU on hydropower R&D. Sam was previously a Physical Scientist in DOE’s Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis, where he managed a portfolio of policy analysis and international collaborations on the energy-water nexus. Prior to DOE, Sam worked as a Congressional Science Fellow in the U.S. Senate, handling energy, environment, and agriculture policy. He earned his Ph.D. in Physics from Stanford University in 2013, and his B.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Jairo Florez, Field Trip Tour Guide
Regional Manager and Senior Vice President, Central New York | New York Power Authority
Jairo Florez was named NYPA’s Regional Manager for Central New York, the top position at the Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Project Plant (B-G) in Schoharie County in 2021. He is the first Latino to fill this position. In addition to managing B-G operations, his oversight includes NYPA’s small hydroelectric power projects on the Mohawk River (Crescent and Vischer Ferry Plants), at the base of Hinckley Reservoir (Gregory B. Jarvis Plant) and at the Ashokan Reservoir in Ulster County (Ashokan Project) as well as NYPA transmission facilities in the region. He joined the Power Authority in 2012 as a Systems Analyst. Prior to joining NYPA, Florez held engineering positions at Rolls Royce Civil Nuclear, City University of New York, Nortel Networks, and Angelcom. He earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Pace University and a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from City College of New York. He was born and raised in Colombia and now resides in Saratoga County, New York.
Brian Saez, Field Trip Tour Guide
Senior Vice President, Power Supply & Canals | New York Power Authority
Brian Saez was named NYPA’s Senior Vice President of Power Supply in 2021. Saez first joined the Power Authority as an apprentice operator in 2001 and was named operations supervisor in 2007. Shortly thereafter he became superintendent of Operations and Maintenance Resource Planning and was named Regional Manager for Central New York in 2014, where he served in that role until February 2021 when Jairo Florez was appointed to that position. He holds a Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a master’s degree in business administration from New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business. A native of Central New York, Saez attended the Gilboa-Conesville Central School, and currently resides in Guilderland, Albany County.
Jeremy Twitchell, Field Trip Researcher
Senior Energy Analyst | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Jeremy Twitchell is a senior energy analyst at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, where he leads PNNL’s work on the Equitable Regulatory Environment thrust area of the Department of Energy – Office of Electricity’s Energy Storage Program. His research focuses on identifying the regulatory barriers that impede the deployment of energy storage technologies and best practices for reducing or eliminating those barriers, as well as providing technical assistance to states on energy storage-related topics. He also supports other efforts at the lab in areas related to grid planning, utility regulation, rate design, and energy system equity. Prior to joining PNNL, Jeremy spent five years at the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission.