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The Australian National University

Pumped hydro storage

Pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) can reduce the effect of intermittent output from renewables.PHES is by far the largest scale electrical energy storage technology currently available (99% of the world total), with a world-wide capacity of 140 GW deployed (three times Australia’s electricity generation capacity). PHES provides rapid response (<1 minute) to support intermittent renewable generation.

While Australian river systems have been assessed for their PHES potential, little work has been undertaken to analyse potential off-river sites. Unconventional off-river PHES comprises pairs of small “turkeys nest” reservoirs (and similar) located in hilly country and connected by pipes or tunnels incorporating a pump/turbine. Example sites include the Adelaide Hills and the sea; the Blue Mtns and Warragamba Dam; and Williamsdale near Canberra; and NW and NE Tasmania where it could be used to increase the capacity factor of high voltage transmission lines carrying wind generated electricity.

Our preliminary work suggests that there are sufficient off-river sites that meet requirements relating to landforms, ecological, economic, cultural and other factors to allow PHES to provide days of storage for Australia’s entire electricity production.

Pie chart showing pumped hydro makes up over 99 percent of worldwide storage capacity.  Source: Fraunhofer Institute, EPRI

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