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EnergyAustralia outlines plans for 100MW pumped hydro plant in SA

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Source: EnergyAustralia

Having chalked up three major solar power purchase agreements in as many months, EnergyAustralia is talking large-scale energy storage this week, in a briefing with the federal government on the potential for a massive pumped hydro project in the renewables rich state of South Australia.

EnergyAustralia managing director Catherine Tanna, along with the company’s executive for energy, Mark Collette, were in Sydney on Tuesday updating the Cabinet Energy Committee on the progress they have made, along with their research partners Melbourne Energy Institute and Arup Group, investigating the viability of a pumped hydro energy storage plant using seawater.

In a statement on Tuesday, Arup Group said that the proposed South Australia project would have the capacity to produce around 100MW of electricity with six-to-eight hours of storage – the equivalent of 60,000 home battery systems, EnergyAustralia says, but at “one-third of the cost.”

Pumped hydro, one of the oldest and most basic and low-cost forms of energy storage, converts electrical energy into potential energy by pumping water up to the top of a hill, storing it there in a reservoir, and then using it when needed to generate electricity at very high efficiency.

Most recently in Australia, it has been linked with a ground-breaking project being developed by Genex Power, which proposes to convert an old gold mine into a 330MWh pumped hydro storage project, to go alongside a 150MW solar PV array.

But its potential for Australia has come into sharper focus in recent months, as governments and electricity market operators grapple with the problem of how to support the smooth transition of electricity networks to renewable energy generation.

In Western Australia, for example, where a state election looms, the front-running Opposition Labor party has pledged to “revitalise” the state’s coal towns, such as of Collie, with new solar, biomass and pumped hydro facilities.

And last November, ARENA announced the provision of $449,000 in funding for the Australian National University to map potential short-term off-river pumped hydro energy storage sites around Australia.

Federally, the PM has also called for further investigation into what role “pumped hydro” could play in improving energy stability in Australia, telling the National Press Club last month that he had asked Chief Scientist Alan Finkel to report back on the subject.

The EnergyAustralia consortium’s project is proposed for the northern end of the Spencer Gulf, on a site with 300 metres of elevation, within 2km of the coast and close to high voltage transmission lines.

The Melbourne Energy Institute’s Roger Darville has described the site as “ideal” for pumped hydro with seawater in South Australia.

“Pumped hydro storage using seawater is just one of the innovations we’re looking at to increase Australia’s supplies of cleaner energy,” Tanna will tell the Energy Committee on Tuesday.

“The technology works like a giant battery. Its great advantage lies in complementing the shift to renewable energy by providing a reliable store of affordable power.

“On hot days, when demand spikes, a pumped hydro plant can be brought into action in minutes, keeping the lights on and costs down. We’re really excited by its potential,” she said.

But the use of seawater, as is proposed for the South Australia project, is a fairly new twist on the technology, as Arup’s strategy and policy lead advisor, Stephen Thompson, has noted.

“(This) would not only be the second example of a seawater pumped hydro storage plant anywhere is the world; it would also be the largest,” Thompson said.

Nevertheless, EnergyAustralia and co. are aiming to have a feasibility study done by mid-2017, and – If the project is deemed viable – the team say the project could be providing peak power to the grid by the summer of 2020/21.  

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  • Jack Gilding

    Bit more detail here: https://www.energyaustralia.com.au/about-us/media-centre/current-news/consortium-assessing-pumped-hydro-storage-plant-sa but also some different figures to those quoted above. EA website says “That’s the equivalent of installing 60,000 home battery storage systems, but at one-third of the cost.” Site is “the northern end of the Spencer Gulf has 300 metres of elevation and is within two kilometres of the coast, close to high voltage transmission lines.”

  • Brunel

    There are already hydroelectric power stations in AUS. Perhaps it would be cheaper to build a UHVDC line from the existing dams to Adelaide.

    • Jonathan Prendergast

      I doubt it would be cheaper.

      • Brunel

        I reckon the cost of this proposed Storage Dam will blow out.

        And it is salt water that may contaminate soil on the way.

        Transmission is cheaper than storage.

        Large scale Tesla batteries can probably store electrons for 10c/kWh or less. 20c/kWh is not a bad price during the peak periods.

        • Jonathan Prendergast

          We store worse things without contaminating the soil. Agree the cost is no where near certain.

          I will have to think. Such transmission lines are very expensive to build, but when you look at our electricity costs, they are a minor portion of the bill.

          • john

            In fact the RET inquiry proved that in fact the transmission costs were the major reason for the rise in price of electricity in Australia, much to the embarrassment of the Government who asked for a report that would show RE was the reason. Oops.

    • Tim Forcey

      This might help explain how pumped hydro fits into the picture:

      http://reneweconomy.com.au/pumped-hydro-the-forgotten-storage-solution-47248/

  • Tim Forcey
    • Alan S

      Thanks for providing the link. The report indicates that the 300 m high site that’s two km from upper Spencer Gulf would the El Alamein army area.

  • Jonathan Prendergast

    We are getting more solar in SA, with 300MW committed, and probably more to follow. And residential and commercial solar will continue its march. Would it be possible that pump hydro could cycle twice per day, tapping into daytime solar supply as well as overnight cheap supply? Double the revenue too?

    • solarguy

      Well it could cycle twice per day as long as there is wind to supply the pumps, but that won’t be banked on. Solar and or wind will supply loads directly during the day as well as pump excess energy into the dam to be used in peak and at times over night off peak. As the wind can blow at night it will also supply loads if needed with excess going to the pumps.

      • Jonathan Prendergast

        We have experience that wind has a big effect on pool prices, and they reduce significantly when SA wind generators are going. Same for solar. I heard (heard only unfortunately, no link) that 15% overall solar supply sees a 50% reduction in midday pool prices.

        This means the pumped hydro could pump during daytime also to take advantage of low prices, cycling twice per day, doubling the revenue of the PHES.

        I am more talking about drawing from the NEM relative to pricing, than pumping when solar or wind is available.

        • solarguy

          Well of course it will pump during the day with solar and or wind, while supplying day time loads as well.

  • Jonathan Prendergast

    There is a market failure for such projects to capture all the value they create, including:
    – reduced need in transmission and interconnector investment
    – reduced energy costs for South Australian’s
    – enabling more solar and possibly wind investment
    – being constantly on stand by providing stablisiation, where as gas generators pick and choose when to be available/spinning/generating

    Therefore, there is a good case for additional funding from the government, AEMO or electricity consumers.

  • john

    I would think there has to be a lot of areas where there is high land near the ocean around the Australian coast.
    Considering it is a very flat country with very little elevation change from coast to land perhaps most of the south across from Adelaide to Perth only has a few hundred meters elevation at best.
    There has to be areas however that will be usable and logically should be used.

    • Andy Saunders

      100m head is do-able.

      Flat country with a 100m cliff at the sea’s edge is close to perfect – turkey-nest dams have huge volume if the area is flat.

      • john

        The area up from the South West of Western Australia seems to have some areas with large elevation change close to the ocean.
        On the east coast there are heaps of areas but unfortunately not exactly good solar resources due to cloud effects.
        Look at the area north of Cairns where the Great Dividing Range meets the sea fantastic change in elevation only 500 meters away but dismal solar resources because it is tropical.

        • Andy Saunders

          Storage and solar don’t have to be co-located. It helps if they are both near existing transmission lines, but they don’t have to be the same lines.

          WA storage won’t help SA.

      • lin

        There are 100m plus cliffs along much of the south coast of Vic, SA and WA, with very good wind resources co-localised. Sounds like a marriage made in heaven, with lack of political will the only missing ingredient.

    • FeFiFoFum

      The cost of transmission infrastructure needs to be considered.
      There is likely not a lot of transmission lines in those remote areas.

      • john

        Very true one would take into consideration the distance to transmission lines and transmission losses.

    • Tommy Griffiths

      There is a huge coal pit beside the soon to be closed, Hazelwood.
      Giles/Sophie has there been any investigation by the Vic Gov on whether this location could be used for pumped Hydro??
      I believe the Hazelwood mine fire investigation had the rebab bill for the mine coming in close to $250m.
      They Government/Engie may be able to repurpose this site for much cheaper.

  • properly managed livestock

    A good article on energy storage.

    Please take a quick peek at this short video on LAES – Liquid Air Energy Storage

    It uses proven “off the shelf” gear and can be sited almost anywhere. No nasty emissions, no need for dams or batteries.

    Build it on a vacant industrial block close to where the power is needed. Use “excess” energy from solar panels on shopping centre and warehouse roofs and close the loop on energy supply and demand.

    Similar cost to stored hydro but much less intrusive and much more local.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nl0WzD4EuwU

    (I have no direct or indirect interest in this company – just think it is bloody interesting)

    • solarguy

      My question is this; What is the efficiency, considering this process needing to refridgerate the air, turn it liquid, compress it and then also capture waste heat and cold? Just compressing air is around 70% efficient.

  • Alan S

    There is no guarantee that batteries will continue to fall in price but that’s the current trend. Is the ‘one third the cost of batteries’ estimate based on their Feb 2017 cost or on the cost of batteries projected to the pumped hydro completion date?

  • Alan S

    A 300 m high site that’s two km from upper Spencer Gulf would be a rare feature in SA that I can’t bring to mind so it would have been useful to say just where it is.

  • Craig Allen

    There is only one place that matches the description, south-west of Port Augusta:
    https://goo.gl/maps/dHRarzuVa9o
    (Unless they plan to build on the flanks of the Flinders Ranges, which I very much hope they are not considering.)
    This spot looks ideal. It’s a beautiful landscape in it’s own right though, so I hope they do their best to not to make more of a mess than they absolutely have to. Port Augusta is in a spectacular landscape setting. I worry that it will end up looking like an industrial wasteland when careful planning and execution of renewable energy projects could ensure otherwise.

    • Tom

      I was looking for where they might dam too.

      I’m thinking you’re right – they must be building a dam right across the mouth of that dry valley just south of where your pin is.

      It would have to be a pretty long and high dam to have any decent storage though.

      • Craig Allen

        No. They’ll dig a huge turkey nest dam on top of the plateau that you see on the map location I pinned. Earth excavated from the centre will be used to build an earth wall around the perimeter. It will probably be prevented from leaking with an impermeable liner. There was an experimental one like it in Okinawa: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okinawa_Yanbaru_Seawater_Pumped_Storage_Power_Station
        It was 150m above sea level, 250m across, 25m deep and produced up to 30MW. The turbines will be down beside the shore to the east of the plateau. The triangular promontory I pinned is 500m across. But if they accepted a slightly lower elevation then there is a vast area of plateau north-east of it that they could use.

        • Tom

          Wow!

    • George Darroch

      What about Myponga, south of Adelaide? The geography seems right (though I know nothing of the suitability).

      I can also see some sites around Lorne in Victoria that look particularly interesting.

  • Greg Wilkins

    Would it make sense to develop wind turbines that directly pumped water? Surely avoiding converting to electricity would be an efficiency and simple water pumps driven by the wind would be a lot simpler than wind turbines that need to generate power directly into the grid.