Feasibility study findings indicate possibility for seawater pumped storage hydro facility in Australia

Results released from an Australian Renewable Energy Agency study indicate the possibility exists for the development of the 225-MW Cultana pumped storage hydropower facility located in South Australia’s Spencer Gulf.

If built at an estimated AUD$477 million (US$372.9 million), the Cultana facility would be the largest seawater pumped storage hydro facility in the world and the first in Australia, according to ARENA.

On Sept. 28, ARENA released the results from the study that began in February, which was led by a consortium of Energy Australia, Arup Group Ltd. and the Melbourne Energy Institute at a cost of about US$860,000.

According to ARENA, the knowledge sharing report produced by Energy Australia indicates the plant could have eight hours of storage using seawater. Study findings also indicate the facility would be economically viable based on several revenue streams, and subject to further engineering design, economical modelling and planning approvals, the project could be operational by 2023.

“The study found that the project would be technically viable with an optimal capacity of 225 MW with storage capacity of 1,770 MWh with eight hours of storage — the equivalent of more than 126,000 home batteries,” according to ARENA.

In August, the government of Australia said there are 185 sites in South Australia that are potentially suitable for off-river pumped hydro storage, according to the results of research at The Australian National University. The sites are gathered into the South Australian Pumped Hydro Atlas.

Additionally, Australia is in the midst of a US$1.5 billion hydropower investment in pumped storage.

In March, HydroWorld.com reported Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcom Turnbull, announced a 2,000 MW addition to the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric project, expanding its cumulative output capacity by 50%.

Ivor Frischknecht, ARENA chief executive officer, said, “Pumped hydro is the most established and common form of grid-scale storage, which can capture and harness electricity produced by solar and wind so it is available when needed.

“We are exploring the potential for pumped hydro across Australia, and the findings of this study are promising for a seawater plant at Cultana.”

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Gregory B. Poindexter formerly was an associate editor for HydroWorld.com.

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