Legacies Matter: Exploring Social Acceptance of Pumped Storage Hydro in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

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Using electrical energy for an increasingly wide range of energy services (including lighting, heating, cooling, food storage, communications, and transport) requires grappling with the impacts of these systems on ecologies and societies. Renewable energy can provide less ecologically damaging electrical energy, but intermittency-the fact that solar requires the sun to shine and wind requires a breeze for energy to be produced-means having to create a way to store electrical energy to balance production and demand effectively. Underground storage hydro energy systems offer one way to achieve this, and one innovative approach involves repurposing abandoned underground mine shafts for pumped underground storage hydro (PUSH) systems. In this article, we present an initial foray into the social acceptance (SA) of the potential development of a PUSH facility. The article looks at the case of SA of a PUSH facility in a post-mining community in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan through its three pillars: community acceptance, sociopolitical acceptance, and market acceptance. This case study reveals that community input into design considerations and economic participation are the primary drivers and may be required to achieve community acceptance. The study provides insights regarding the importance of engaging the community in discussions while planning for large energy infrastructure to spur renewable energy transition. The case study will further engage the audience in understanding the SA of energy storage systems when developed in brownfield sites (abandoned mines) instead of greenfield sites.

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Case Studies in the Environment