A series of pumped storage hydropower projects planned across five states could triple Australia’s electricity storage capacity, according to a new study by a researcher at The Australian National University (ANU).
Professor Jamie Pittock says if the projects go ahead, they will accelerate the country’s transition to renewable energy.
“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,” 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.”
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,” he says.
A lot of high-elevation areas that would otherwise be suitable have to be ruled out because of national parks or cultural sites. Other sites are too far from water or existing electricity transmission lines.
Pittock says the sites that could soon be home to pumped storage hydro projects include everything from old quarries to doubling existing pumped hydro schemes and a “green” steel mill.
Pittock says estimates show that about 20 big pumped storage hydro facilities are needed to back up the entire national grid.