Pumped hydro for storage of solar electricity in Australia

Initial investigations suggest that pumped hydro could provide ample storage of electric power to accommodate the intermittency of solar and wind generated electricity – and so provide baseload power for Australia.  Pumped hydro storage is efficient, flexible, economical and commercially available on a vast scale.

Indeed pumped storage is the only large scale storage technology currently available to the electricity industry, with some 130 GW of capacity installed worldwide including 2.5 GW in Australia. Competing storage techniques, such as compressed air, high temperature thermal storage in conjunction with CST, and advanced batteries, are considerably more costly or less developed.

This paper describes a project that could quantify the capacity of pumped hydro to provide adequate back up to allow solar and wind generation to provide most of Australia’s electricity. Initial results suggest that there are vastly more suitable pumped hydro storage sites than required for this task.

A new breed of pumped hydro storage is being deployed around the world. These systems have relatively small reservoirs, with storage of only hours or days of turbine capacity.  Reservoirs do not have to be on a river as only evaporation needs to be replaced.  Some pumped storages even use sea water. For example, reservoirs can be excavations located atop hills next to the sea, or pairs of oversized “farm dams” located close to each other at different elevations

Andrew Blakers, James Pittock, Mishka Talent and Francis Markham: Australian National University, Canberra
Paper presented at Solar 2010: The 48th AuSES Annual Conference
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Pumped hydro is being suggested as a possible use for the Hazelwood mine and Hazelwood Pondage. As upper and lower level storage already exists, the establishment cost would be lower.  There is a drop of about 130 metres, nearby transmission lines and water access.

Key Words: technology
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