Water – the ultimate renewable resource

Sites like Majors Creek-Reidsdale have the potential to host STORE generators.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is providing almost $450,000 for to the Australian National University (ANU) to conduct a study into small-scale hydroelectricity generators.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknect said the study could unlock the potential for hydro to be used in more places than in how it has traditionally been used, such as the Snowy Mountain or Tasmanian hydro schemes.

“This study will help us see just how cheap, efficient and effective pumped hydro systems can be in providing large-scale, reliable, clean energy storage that can feed into the grid on demand,” he said.

The short-term off-river pumped hydro energy storage sites, or STORES, could potentially be installed in hundreds of locations around Australia.

STORES sites are pairs of reservoirs, where one is higher than the other by between 300 and 900 metres, joined by a pipe. Water is circulated between the upper and lower reservoirs in a closed loop to store and generate power.

“The approach uses surplus energy to pump water uphill to a storage reservoir. This water can then be released downhill to generate electricity on demand,” he said.

“While there has been a focus on energy storage technologies such as batteries and solar thermal, the vast majority of existing large-scale energy storage comes from on-river hydroelectric dams, such as those in Tasmania and the Snowy Mountains.”

ANU is partnering with ElectraNet and Vtara Energy Group to conduct the Atlas of Pumped Hydro Energy Storage Study. This will help develop a blueprint and cost model to integrate the technology into the grid on national, state and regional levels.

South Australia has one potential STORES site 600 metres up the hill of Spencers Gulf, and it could support solar and wind energy generation.

Vtara Energy Group Chairman and CEO Dr Clive Stephens said energy storage is increasing in importance as the proportion of renewable energy increased.

“Pumped hydro is the cheapest form of large-scale storage. Off-river pumped hydro can support the electricity network and can be co-located with wind and solar for added benefits, Dr Stephens said.

The study is due to finish in 2018.