The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is finalising a $450,000 grant for an energy retailer to develop a pumped hydro energy storage project in the Upper Spencer Gulf in South Australia.

EnergyAustralia briefed the Federal Government’s Energy Committee of Cabinet on their proposed project – one of a range of emerging cost-effective technologies that can help deliver security and stability in the electricity grid.

EnergyAustralia Managing Director, Catherine Tanna, and Executive – Energy, Mark Collette, updated the committee on the progress EnergyAustralia and partners Melbourne Energy Institute and Arup Group have made in the past 12 months investigating the pumped hydro project using seawater.

Located in the Spencer Gulf of South Australia, the proposed project would have the capacity to produce around 100MW of electricity with six to eight hours of storage, the equivalent of installing 60,000 home battery storage systems, but at one-third of the cost.

“Pumped hydro storage using seawater is just one of the innovations we’re looking at to increase Australia’s supplies of cleaner energy,” Ms Tanna said.

“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.”

Ms Tanna said while some proposed projects, like interconnectors, tend to shift reliability issues, energy storage, whether in the form of pumped hydro or batteries, actually solves the problem.

satellitePumped hydro is a form of hydroelectricity that does not rely on rivers or flowing water. Fresh water pumped hydro has been used for decades in countries including the United States, Japan and China.

In 2013 Melbourne Energy Institute and Arup started assessing how the technology could be adapted to Australia’s dry conditions using seawater.

Stephen Thompson, Leader Strategy, Policy Advisory for Arup in Australasia, said, “The proposed project for South Australia would not only be the second example of a seawater pumped hydro storage plant anywhere is the world; it would also be the largest.”

The proposed site on the northern end of the Spencer Gulf has 300m of elevation and is within 2km of the coast, close to high voltage transmission lines.

Dr Roger Dargaville, Deputy Director of the Melbourne Energy Institute at the University of Melbourne, said, “It’s the ideal site for pumped hydro energy storage with seawater in South Australia.”

With pumped hydro, water is pumped from a lower reservoir to a higher one when energy is cheap. Then, when demand for power is high and prices rise, the water is run down again and put through a turbine to generate electricity. Because the water is reused, this process can be repeated.

EnergyAustralia and its partners are aiming to have a feasibility study completed by mid-2017. If the project is viable, detailed engineering design work, environmental impact statements, consultation with stakeholders and applications for government approval will follow.

Construction would take around two years and could be providing peak power to the grid by the summer of 2020/21.

Lauren brings a fresh approach to content. While she’s previously written for publications as diverse as Australian Geographic, The Border Watch and Girlfriend, she’s found her true passion in her current role as an editor in the world of energy and infrastructure trade magazines.

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