Battery of the nation – Tasmanian pumped hydro in Australia’s future electricity market

Concept study knowledge sharing report

6 Jun 2018

Potential development of new pumped hydro energy storage (pumped hydro) projects in Tasmania could play an important role in supporting the National Electricity Market (NEM) transition to variable low emissions sources of generation. With the forecast increase of variable, renewable energy penetration into the NEM, the system support and energy security provided by additional hydropower capacity and energy storage would assist in achieving a secure, reliable future grid.

While significant investment is being made in new technologies such as grid scale batteries and solar thermal projects, pumped hydro remains the only viable technology for longer term storage (greater than eight hours).

Future energy markets in Australia will value the services needed by the system operators to help manage the variability of the major generation sources. The magnitude and type of those services will depend on the characteristics of each region, particularly with reference to the need for short term versus longer term firming. Energy storage of various forms is expected to play a major role in the provision of these services.

To understand the potential for pumped hydro in Tasmania, a concept study assessing project options has been completed by Hydro Tasmania (this study). This study received funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) as part of ARENA’s Advancing Renewables Program.

This concept study has demonstrated that pumped hydro project opportunities in Tasmania which are likely to be technically and economically viable, could deliver an additional 2500 MW of storage capacity (more than doubling Tasmania’s current capacity).The study has identified that suitable options to utilise existing hydro infrastructure in Tasmania for pumped hydro development exist and warrant further investigation. The concept study considered a wide range of potential options; however, the significant advantages of utilising existing hydro infrastructure in Tasmania were recognised early in the screening process.

Further study is required to validate assumptions used in the concept study and to identify project siting and design options that address technical, economic, social and environmental risks. In parallel, studies are underway that aim to prove the viability of pumped hydro storage in the Tasmanian and NEM context including consideration of future market scenarios and investment in additional interconnection.

The concept study has reduced a list of over 2000 potential pumped hydro options to a selection of 14 options. These options have been selected through high level technical assessment of project sites and rapid workshop assessments with a wide range of internal stakeholders from technical and scientific disciplines across the Hydro Tasmania group.

The selected options are those deemed most likely to meet key project and sustainable development objectives based on early stage analysis and will be further assessed as part of the next phase of study which is pre-feasibility. If further investigations show the selected sites do not meet these objectives, other alternative sites may be considered.

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