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Pumped hydro projects to bolster South Australia’s renewable energy push

Renewables

Five major pumped hydro energy storage projects and another big battery have received government support in South Australia as the state moves to advance its position as a global renewable energy leader.

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The projects, mainly in the state’s Mid North near several large-scale wind and solar projects, would provide more than 1 Gigawatt of generation capacity to the South Australian grid.

Located at reservoirs and disused mine and quarry sites, the projects will generate a total investment of about $1.5 billion, creating an estimated 550 jobs during construction.

The South Australian Government grants come from its $150 million Renewable Technology Fund, which is designed to accelerate the transformation to the next generation of renewable energy technologies.

Pumped hydro storage works by pumping water from a low holding area to an upper reservoir when, potentially renewable, electricity is plentiful and then releasing the water from the upper reservoir through a turbine when demand is high.

The pumped hydro projects to receive the funding are:

The Altura Group proposal, near Port Augusta where several other major renewable projects are planned, is the most advanced of the pumped hydro projects to receive funding.

Altura Group Director Rosahlena Robinson said the project was in the final development phase to support an investment decision during 2018.

“The high level of current and future renewable generation in South Australia is ideally complemented by pumped hydro that can meet not only short term capacity needs, but also sustained energy requirements,” she said.

The GFG Alliance project would further strengthen Executive Chairman Sanjeev Gupta’s position in South Australia, which began last year when the British billionaire’s company Liberty House purchased the struggling Whyalla Steelworks from Arrium. GFG Alliance also bought a 50.1 per cent stake in Adelaide-based solar and storage company ZEN Energy in September before announcing a raft of renewable energy projects including the Middleback Ranges pumped hydro project.

Gupta said the alliance would balance power generated by its large-scale solar projects in Whyalla with despatchable hydropower generated in empty mining pits in the Middleback Ranges.

He said the cost of solar and wind was rapidly declining globally with the evolution of technology and economies of scale.

“However, without a viable large-scale storage solution this revolution is incomplete and unsustainable,” Gupta said.

“A dramatic reduction in power price is the most important ingredient needed for an industrial renaissance in Australia, which GFG is entirely committed to effecting.”

The funding announcement is the latest in a string of renewable energy projects underway in South Australia.

In July, Tesla CEO Elon Musk flew into Adelaide to announce his company would use a $20 million grant from the Renewable Technology Fund partner with French renewable energy company Neoen to build the world’s largest lithium-ion battery (100MW/129MWh) at Neoen’s Hornsdale Wind Farm in the state’s Mid-North.

The following month global company SolarReserve announced it would build a 150MW/1100MWh solar thermal power plant near Port Augusta.

This week the South Australian government announced it was partnering with Tesla to create the world’s largest Virtual Power Plant, linking up as many as 50,000 households with solar panels and batteries to create a 250mw power plant.

SA Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis (right) and Tilt Renewables CEO Deion Campbell at Highbury quarry.Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily.

Abundant wind and sunshine, proximity to significant high capacity power lines and its relatively remote location on the edge of the Australian Outback makes the Mid North region of South Australia an ideal hub for renewable energy production.

South Australia leads the nation in the uptake of wind energy and rooftop solar with renewable sources accounting for almost 50 per cent of the electricity generated in the state.

However, the intermittent nature of renewable energy – such as when it is not windy or sunny – requires effective storage options to increase efficiency and help match electricity supply to the grid with demand.

Advocates of pumped hydro claim it is the cheapest form of storage currently used, had an operational lifetime of 50 years or more and could be used to stabilise a 100 per cent renewable grid.

South Australian Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said boosting competition by dispatching cheap renewable energy when demand was high was a key to lowering power prices in the state.

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

“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.”

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story.

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