"Future is storage:" SA govt pumps for four more hydro projects | RenewEconomy

“Future is storage:” SA govt pumps for four more hydro projects

South Australia government provides funding for feasibility studies into four large pumped hydro projects in the wind and solar-rich upper Spencer Gulf.


The South Australia state government has declared the “future is renewable energy storage” as it announces support for four new pumped hydro projects in the wind and solar-rich upper Spencer Gulf region.

A day after announcing plans for a major 400MW, 1150MWh pumped hydro project in an old quarry in the Adelaide foothills, energy minister Tom Koutsantonis has announced $9 million in funding for another four big pumped hydro projects further north.

All are located reservoirs and disused mine sites near Whyalla, Port Augusta and Port Germein, and would add a total of about 750MW of generation capacity – and a massive 5,600MWh of storage – to the South Australian grid.

“Storage of renewable energy is the future and South Australia has entrenched itself as a hub for the development of large-scale storage projects,” Koutsantonis said in a statement.

“We want to see as many of these projects as possible developed in South Australia, and this funding will help these businesses accelerate the development of their pumped hydro projects.”

The large-scale pumped hydro projects add to a wave of battery storage installations, including the Tesla big battery (which is already puncturing holes in the gas cartel), and facilities at Wattle Point and Lincoln Gap, and the newly announced solar and battery storage facility at Snowtown.

The pumped hydro projects getting funding for studies from the government include Altura Group’s Goat Hill project, 12km west of Port Augusta, where it and Delta Electricity are looking at a pumped hydro project of 230MW in capacity and 1840MWh of storage.

Arrium, the Whyalla steel plant operator now owned by UK billionaire Sanjeev Gupta, is planning a 90MW/390MWh pumped hydro facility at the old Iron Duchess mine as part of its plans for 1GW of solar and storage.

Rise Renewables, chaired by former CEFC boss Oliver Yates, is looking at a 200-230MW/1600MWh pumped hydro project at the existing Baroota Reservoir, north-east of Port Germein, which is located next to high voltage transmission lines.

And EnergyAustralia, as previously foreshadowed, is looking at a 225MW/1770MWh facility at Cultana, north of Whyalla.

The payments are to be made out of the Renewable Technologies Fund, which is also backing the Tesla big battery, and the new Tesla virtual power plant, along with local micro-grids and other projects.

The announcement continues a flurry of projects unveiled by the state Labor government ahead of the forthcoming state election (its caretaker period begins in 10 days’ time), and on the anniversary of the last major power loss event in South Australia on February 8 last year.

In the past few days the government has announced the world’s biggest virtual power plant – 250MW of solar and 650MWh of battery storage on 50,000 homes to be implemented by Tesla, and Tilt’s plan for a 44MW solar farm, a 21MW/26MWh battery storage plant next to its Snowtown wind farm.

“The key to lowering power prices in South Australia is boosting competition, and these projects have the potential to dispatch cheap renewable energy when demand is high,” Koutsantonis said.

Gupta said that the cost of solar and wind was rapidly declining, but large-scale storage was essential to make “this revolution” complete and sustainable.

“Using the empty mining pits from our SIMEC Mining division in South Australia as reservoirs for storing hydro power … we will balance power generated by our large-scale solar projects in Whyalla with despatchable hydro power generated in the Middleback range,” he said.

Gupta’s company has predicted a fall in electricity costs of up to 40 per cent through renewables and storage, and said that “a dramatic reduction in power price is the most important ingredient needed for an industrial renaissance in Australia.”

Gupta’s SIMEC ZEN Energy has already won the contract to deliver electricity to the state government while waiting for the Aurora solar tower and storage project to be built in Port Augusta.

Yates said that the Baroota Hydro Project would be a 50-year critical asset that “underpins growth in renewables, lower wholesale electricity prices and network stability.”

EnergyAustralia head of assets Julian Turacek said pumped hydro had great potential to integrate intermittent renewable supply into the grid in a way that delivered reliable, affordable energy.

“Projects like these require a significant amount of work before reaching a final investment decision. We are very grateful for the support from the South Australian government as we develop solutions for Australia’s modern energy system.”

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  1. GlennM 3 years ago

    Yep, sign the contracts today just in case they get voted out.

    • Brunel 3 years ago

      No need actually, if they vote for the LNP and suffer – it was their choice to vote for the LNP.

      • Patrick Comerford 3 years ago

        Yes it’s an interesting conundrum. If the voters vote in a party that has no interest in facing up to and trying to solve the challenges facing them such as high power prices and all the adverse consequences of that situation then who should shoulder the blame. The voters or the polies. If the voters of SA do not re elect the Weatherill Labor government then it’s very much a case of the turkeys voting for Christmas and as such will deserve whatever they get.

        • Chris Drongers 3 years ago

          The turkeys have to know that Christmas involces more than opening presents.

        • solarguy 3 years ago

          Impossible to disagree with that statement.

      • mick 3 years ago

        ordinarily id agree with you however i think sa is at a critical juncture and cant afford lib/alt lib bastardisation and damage

      • JIm 3 years ago

        No LNP, only a Liberal Party on offer in SA. Nationals-free zone. Choice is a bit of a euphemism. There is so little real information exchanged between candidates and voters in modern elections, unless you are unusually persistent and lucky in questioning what they stand for – and don’t get conned. They rarely come out to expose themselves in case they get cornered. Its all slogans and advertising. On those grounds, I don’t think it is entirely fair to blame the voters. SA Best, an important player in this State election, is a case in point. What are their energy policies? We don’t know what influence they will have, but it could be major. The 2016 Nick Xenophon Team policies still stand? Not sure.

        • mick 3 years ago

          gday jim ive read a snippet that sa best are talking to prof garnaut fingers crossed he knows how to communicate with retarded children

          • JIm 3 years ago

            pleased to hear

          • Coley 3 years ago

            Retarded? Sorry to see such an unpleasant American label used to describe children.
            Now “retarded” politicians would be much more acceptable.

          • mick 3 years ago


          • Mike Westerman 3 years ago

            I forgive those who thru no fault of their own lack intelligence or insight. But our pollies are wilfully mendacious and antagonistically misleading, and deserve an ugly title that probably hasn’t been invented. Let’s hope they are kicked out before it is.

        • Ian 3 years ago

          SA Best policies are being finalised. One Electrical Engineer and Reneweconomy avid reader is now part of the SA Best party for that very reason.

          • JIm 3 years ago

            We’ll see what impact that has. And of course who gets elected and who doesn’t is important too.

        • Kate 3 years ago

          I’ve ceased any consideration for Xenophon. For all his anti-pokie stance it seems he hasn’t achieved much, plus I’m not convinced a person who seems to have defaulted back to candidacy in SA because of some possible problems in his qualifications to stand in the federal parliament is someone who should be considered as having any constancy towards state level politics specifically. Then there is the issue of his knee jerk reaction to blame renewables when the state blackout in 2016 occurred without fully checking out what had actually occurred before he started flinging mud around, that really pissed me off. And finally – and this is stretching my memory a bit so I may get some things wrong here – but I have a memory of one of his female running mates back about 8 to 10 years ago (she may have originally been from queensland?) sponsoring Monckton to give his presentation to local SA people. Now if it had been a reputable person giving talks, fine, but by that time Monckton had been clearly shown to present significantly misleading information in the vast majority of his presentation materials. As she was supporting him I made the assumption (didn’t have the tools to gather the information to verify it) that taxpayer money was likely being spent towards his speaking/appearance fee. Not on.

          Now I’ve made some anti-Liberal, pro-Labor comments in these forums, but that’s mainly because by and large I think the Liberal party is populated by do-nothing sanctimonious hypocrits who squat on taxpayer’s money in order to book themselves fat corporate positions in the long-term. I’m kind of pro-Labor by default. But in truth I’m anti-2 party politics, and pro-variety in political representation. The more views and perspectives being represented, the healthy our democracy is, and the less likely the two main parties will take us for granted. I’m someone who always looks into what independents are standing, and so long as they’re not nazis, seem to be sane and rational, and have announced policy positions that I can live with I’ll try to chuck a vote their way and I ALWAYS vote below the line …and I’ll always put the Liberals last (…but for any nazis…)

          So take note Independents and small party candidates – this is one voter who’ll be watching out for you!

          • solarguy 3 years ago

            Kate, I understand and applaud your thinking. The only problem with the smaller parties is that they probably will never win government in their own right. Those not careful when proportioning their vote can give the LNP a win when intending to get a Labor government.

          • Kate 3 years ago

            Uh huh. Sorry solarguy, but I’ve heard that argument/stance my entire life and I reject it.

            Mate, if we continue thinking that way then the (current) two main party set up continues to become ever more entrenched not only in our government, but in our way of thinking and hence in our culture overall – until our society reaches the point where it will be unable to think outside the Lib/Lab false dilemma. It is voting by fear and will inevitably lead to democratic stagnation.

            Just look at the state of USA politics as an example of where we might be headed.

            I reject that fallacial reality.

            I have no control over other’s stupidity on an election-by-election basis. If the Libs do get in it’s not my vote that will get them there – it’s all those sheep who willingly embrace the Lib’s lies and empty posturing. At least if there are sufficient independents and third party reps then any minority government (of either ilk) will have to negotiate with them to gain and retain power. This will hopefully mean being the party in minority government will not sit easy for them, and they’ll actually have to work for their money. I’m good with that.

            Regardless, my perspective on the necessity for representation outside that Lib/Lab false dilemma remains and I’m not going to compromise it for fear that the Libs will get in on any particular election.

            I cast my sole vote, for whatever small amount it’s worth, with an eye to the health of our democracy and society over the long term. Not because of fear in the short term.

          • solarguy 3 years ago

            I get your point Kate, it all depends on which party holds the balance of power. In my electorate for example the Green candidate is piss poor, but if they find some one with more brains and credibility and sucks enough Labor votes causing the Lib candidate to get across the line with Green preferences, then that would be a disaster and it could mean an LNP majority of one seat (hyperthetic scenario).

            Now who would you rather see as PM, Mal or Bill Shorten?

          • neroden 3 years ago

            Well, seriously, everyone in their right mind should list the Liberals at the bottom of their preference list (possibly with One Nation below it). Most of the joke parties are better. The problem would be if anyone gives Green preferences to the Libs, which would be crazy.

          • solarguy 3 years ago

            Clearly, not everyone is in their right mind, Re, Mr Rabbit’s and Maladjusted’s win. The last election was close with some Green candidates giving preferences to the Libs, WTF.

            At this stage in our history none of the minor parties will get enough votes to govern in their own right, but can become a fly in the ointment in a tight election. So giving a first preference vote to any minor party can rob enough votes from a Labor candidate say, and loose. In some elections that could result in an LNP victory, even by one seat and so the misery would continue. So they become wasted votes.

    • lin 3 years ago

      Even if they do sign the contracts, the Libs have been known to come in and wreck the joint anyway, as they did with the NBN. A cynic might comment that the Libs are OK with citizens being robbed blind for the enrichment of their mates and donors.

      • Kate 3 years ago

        Noooo! It can’t be true! They’re the One True Party of Fiscal Responsibility!


  2. Brunel 3 years ago

    I was correct all along, batteries should be installed in hospitals and acting as a UPS:

    Surgery room in RAH without power for 20 mins.



    • Tom 3 years ago

      Batteries are installed in hospitals and act as a UPS. They’re the blue power points that you plug things into.

      They are only in some areas and only critical equipment should be plugged into them, and high draw equipment (such as heaters) should not be plugged into them. It is only a relatively small battery.

      The rest of the hospital should have a back-up generator which supplies most of the power points. There will be an interruption of some seconds before the back-up generator kicks in.

      The back-up generator obviously did not do its job at RAH. Either that or there was some sort of wiring fault or RCD/ LIM trip in that theatre.

      • Brunel 3 years ago

        Back up generators have a lead acid battery to start them up!

        Remember the movie, The Dish? Mitch forgot to prime the fuel lines and therefore the backup diesel generator did not kick in.

        Why continue to use diesel generators for critical stuff like hospitals or the big dish?

        Just have 2 parallel circuits – 2 Powerpacks + 2 inverters to power the entire hospital in the even of a power cut. My point was that instead of having a giant battery next to a wind farm – put the giant battery at RAH.

        Or even divide the battery into 10 and put them in places like unis, airports, ports, prisons, hospitals.

        • Mike Dill 3 years ago

          For the first minute, while the generator is ‘winding up’, a battery can catch the load until the generator is running at speed. Having that one minute of battery is cheaper than having a generator always running in standby for emergencies.
          The Hornsdale Energy Reserve is a prime example, as it has ‘caught’ the falling load when the coal generators have failed. People complained that the battery only has a hour of capacity, but that is enough time for the ’emergency’ generators to spin up and carry on.
          Yes, having the battery closer to the load is better, as it eliminates potential transmission and distribution issues.

        • Mike Westerman 3 years ago

          High speed diesels are way cheaper per MW than batteries, and the very low capacity factor means cost per MWh is less relevant.

          Life support systems and other mission critical systems always have considerable redundancy, but that doesn’t eliminate the problem of glitches.

      • Rupert Goldie 3 years ago

        It looks like poor planning of a software change.

        • Tom 3 years ago


      • Michael Murray 3 years ago

        They were testing the backup generator

        It said maintenance crews were testing a generator and the power outage happened because a software failure prevented the affected section of the hospital from being switched back from generator to mains power.

  3. Tom 3 years ago

    It is really smart building storage up north near the solar/ wind resource. I don’t know what the capacity of the transmission line from Adelaide to Port Augusta is, but I’d be guessing a smidge over the capacity of the old Northern Power Station – 520MW.

    Having storage up there effectively means they can build 1500MW or 2000MW of solar or wind and pump it into the rest of the grid at a relatively constant 500MW. (Not that constant power is any more useful than unpredictable, variable power, but still).

    It’s probably much cheaper to build a few pumped hydro projects nearby than to double or triple 400km of transmission capacity to accommodate more solar and wind up there.

    • BushAxe 3 years ago

      There’s four 275kV circuits between Port Augusta and Adelaide, each has a summer rating of 500-650MW, it’s the reason why there’s so many proposals for the Port Augusta region.

      • Tom 3 years ago

        Thanks. I didn’t know that.

        I guess that means that with storage, instead of building 2000MW of wind and solar, they could build 6000MW.

        • BushAxe 3 years ago

          Yep, storage will get more out of the current transmission lines and then there’s future developments like the Eyre Peninsula rebuild which will unlock 1GW of capacity in a region of excellent resources, an interconnector with NSW, another with Vic, etc.

  4. howardpatr 3 years ago

    Tom Koutsantonis does not want to have too many eggs in too few baskets.

    He might do well to help fund an evaluation of what some think is, at this point, the most advanced flow battery technology.


    This might be a good option for suburban distributed ESS and mean having a solar system on your roof but also being able to store without your own battery system?

  5. masongeo 3 years ago

    Giles, a small correction: Middleback not Fiddleback.

    • Giles 3 years ago

      Oh, Middlesticks!

  6. mick 3 years ago

    if you like small scale hydro check this out http;//phys.org/news-2016-10-pumped-storage-hydroelectrical.html

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