Hydro a ‘game changer’ finds report

Pumped Storage Hydropower (PSH) has the potential to triple the nation’s electricity storage, according to new research released by the Australian National University (ANU).

A pipeline of PSH projects across five states could significantly accelerate Australia’s transition to a low-carbon economy, according to ANU’s Professor Jaime Pittock.

"We're talking about more than 20 projects being assessed or built. This would put us well on the way to having a national grid that could rely almost entirely on renewables," Professor Pittock says.

"It's really a game changer. It destroys any argument that solar and wind can't provide the baseload power needed to keep the lights on in eastern Australia."

Professor Pittock's paper outlines the environmental implications of this system. He says it does throw up some unusual challenges.

"A lot of people live in rural areas because they don't want to live next to a big industrial project, it might be a shock if somebody suddenly turns around and says they want to build a reservoir on top of the nearest mountain."

Professor Pittock says the sites which could soon be home to PSH projects include everything from old quarries, to doubling existing pumped hydro schemes and a "green" steel mill.

"One example is the old gold mining tunnels under Bendigo in Victoria, so sucking the contaminated water up to the surface and feeding it back down the mine shafts," Mr Pittock said.

In South Australia, another project proposes the use of sea water to generate power.

This means there's no blanket rule when it comes to sourcing the water needed for PSH.

"In South Australia for example, one project will buy water entitlements out of the Murray Darling Basin system."

"Then you've got Snowy Hydro, whose operators say legally nothing changes, we're using the same water, we're just recycling it."

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