Seawater pumped hydro plant reaches next phase

EnergyAustralia has received $500,000 in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) for the next stage of its seawater pumped hydro plant in South Australia.

An $8 million feasibility study will now go ahead and will involve the completion of project design including geotechnical investigations and equipment specifications, environmental impact studies and grid connection works.

If built, the 22MW Cultana seawater pumped hydro plant will be the largest ever constructed in the world and the first for Australia.

EnergyAustralia energy executive Mark Collette said Cultana would be a great achievement for pumped hydro in Australia.

“Pumped hydro is really a way of storing energy so it can be used when it’s needed, like a giant battery,” he said.

“Finding ways to store energy will be critical to Australia’s transition to cleaner energy so it’s great to have ARENA get behind the project with funding toward the next stage of its development.

“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us this year with detailed design and engineering, community engagement, environmental assessments and approvals but we’re excited about the potential for seawater pumped hydro to play an important role in Australia’s future energy mix.”

ARENA previously provided $453,00 for the initial feasibility study, which found the proposed Spencer Gulf plant was technically viable and could generate 225MW of electricity with 1770MWh of storage equivalent using seawater as the storage medium.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the next stage was an important step in building Australia’s first seawater pumped hydro plant.

“This pioneering project aims to build Australia’s first ever pumped hydro using seawater and could open up the potential for future seawater pumped hydro around Australia,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“Pumped hydro is the most common and mature form of energy storage which has been traditionally used in rivers, but seawater has the benefit of having no impact on rivers and no need to construct lower reservoirs.”

The South Australian Government announced it would commit $500,000 to the feasibility study earlier this month.