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Research report

Sites for pumped hydro energy storage

21 Sep 2017
Energy storage is important in securing the stability of an electricity grid. Pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) could have a huge impact upon the Australian electricity grid. This project focuses upon the resource potential within Australia and other countries.


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Australia has many potential sites for pumped hydro energy storage (PHES). In our initial survey, we have found about 22,000 sites – the State and Territory breakdown is shown in the table below. Each site has an energy storage potential between 1 and 200 Gigawatt hours (GWh).

The sites identified so far have a combined energy storage potential of around 67,000 GWh. To put this into perspective, to transition to a 100 per cent renewable electricity system 450 GWh of PHES storage would be needed. The potential PHES resource is almost 150 times more than required. Developers can afford to be choosy since only about 20 sites (the best 0.1% of sites) would be required to support a 100% renewable electricity grid.

For comparison, the proposed Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro system would have a storage capacity of about 360 GWh. The Tesla battery to be installed in South Australia has a storage capacity of 0.13 GWh. Pumped hydro has a lifetime of 50 years compared with 8-15 years for batteries. About 36 km2 of lake is required to support a 100% renewable electricity system, which is a small fraction of existing artificial reservoirs.

Virtually all sites are away from rivers, and none intrude on national parks or urban areas. The large number of potential sites provides some confidence that there will be a good number of technically feasible PHES sites. Site searching and development of a PHES cost model are being explored as part of an ARENA funded project.




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