Seawater pumped hydro project to go ahead

An Australian-first seawater pumped hydro project proposed for South Australia has passed a major milestone with an initial feasibility report finding no “show stoppers” to the development.

The facility would be located at Cultana in the Spencer Gulf and would be capable of generating 225MW of electricity and 1770MWh of power with eight hours of storage.

The study, conducted by EnergyAustralia with support from Arup and the Melbourne Energy Institute, will allow the project to proceed to the next stage of planning, including engineering design, planning approvals and more detailed financial modeling.

EnergyAustralia managing director Catherine Tanna said pumped hydro was really a way of storing energy, so it can be used when it’s needed, typically when renewables are not available.

“Pumped hydro has great potential to solve one of the most pressing energy issues we face – integrating intermittent renewable supply into the grid in a way that delivers reliable, affordable power,” Ms Tanna said.

She said the power produced by the project is the equivalent of installing 126,000 home battery storage systems at a third of the cost.

“We still have a lot of hard work ahead of us before we can commit to a project,” Ms Tanna said.

“But based on the studies we’ve done these past six months we’re optimistic seawater pumped hydro can play an important role in a new, modern Australian energy system.”

Arup and Melbourne Energy Institute have been working on this concept since 2013.

In February, the consortium was awarded $453,000 by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to partially fund the feasibility study.

Melbourne Energy Institute director Professor Michael Brear said pumped hydro storage in South Australia is a great example of industry, government and academia coming together.

“We’re delighted to be involved in this collaboration to develop innovative technologies and help make possible the transition to a low-cost, low-carbon energy system,” Professor Brear said.

While pumped hydro isn’t new technology, the project proposed for Cultana would be the first in Australia to use seawater rather than freshwater, a key consideration for a dry state like South Australia.

As the consortium moves ahead with its assessment it will also begin another round of community consultation.

With construction expected to take around three years, a seawater pumped hydro project at Cultana could be operational and supporting the South Australian energy grid by 2022.