Expanding Pumped Hydro Storage

The iconic Snowy Scheme’s role as the battery of the National Electricity Market (NEM) could be supercharged as part of plans to expand the pumped hydro storage capability within the Scheme.
Snowy Hydro, working with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), will shortly commence a feasibility study into several sites across the Scheme which could support new large-scale, pumped hydro-electric energy storage.

The proposal could add up to 2000 megawatts of new renewable energy to the NEM and act as rapid response back-up to fill the gaps in energy supply caused by intermittent renewables and generator outages.

The pumped hydro capability means the water utilised for electricity generation can be recycled to give continuous supply when it’s needed most, with no impact on the Scheme’s ability to continue to supply valuable water to irrigators in the food bowl of Australia.

Snowy Hydro Managing Director and CEO, Paul Broad, said the proposal has the potential to deliver an innovative clean-energy solution to the critical security and supply issues in the NEM, helping to take the pressure off power prices for consumers and businesses, while reducing emissions.

“From our earliest days, Snowy Hydro has been moving water to support the irrigators in the food bowl of Australia and generating electricity during peak demands to keep the lights on in the NEM,” Mr Broad, said.

“The creators of the Scheme foresaw a time when its capabilities may need to be expanded and, as a result, there are very real options in-built in the Scheme’s design to extract more value to the community.

“At a time when the security and stability of the NEM, energy affordability and emissions reduction are under scrutiny, there is an opportunity to leverage the iconic Snowy Scheme to once again deliver an energy solution for the country.

“By supercharging the utilisation of the Snowy Scheme’s storage, we can help the NEM best cope with peak demand through new supply at a time when baseload energy is exiting the market and renewables with intermittent generation are not providing the reliable capacity needed by Australian businesses and consumers.

“While the feasibility study is the first step, this project could once again bring together the world’s best and brightest engineers and technicians to enhance a national icon.”

The Scheme itself already operates as the ‘battery storage’ of the NEM, utilising dams to store energy in the form of water that can be delivered to the grid within minutes through the fast start capabilities of the Scheme’s nine power stations.

There are a number of sites across the Scheme capable of supercharging Snowy Hydro’s storage capability - providing additional generation capacity, helping the security and stability of the NEM, and with pumping capability to maximise the water resources and existing dam storage in the Scheme.  The most prospective project could increase the capacity of the 4100 megawatt Snowy Scheme by 50 per cent and result in a power station at least as powerful as Snowy Hydro’s 1800 megawatt Tumut 3 Power Station, which already includes pumped hydro capability.

The feasibility study will explore the physical, technical and environmental requirements for expansion of pumped hydro at sites across the Scheme, the potential output of new pumped hydro facilities and the costs associated with each project.

The Australian Government, through ARENA, is negotiating grant funding to support the Snowy Hydro feasibility work as part of ARENA’s ongoing efforts to accelerate Australia’s shift to renewable energy.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said expanding the Snowy Scheme could help to deliver ARENA’s goal of ensuring a smooth transition to a renewable energy future.

“Australia’s energy system is rapidly evolving and ARENA is funding solutions like pumped hydro storage that provide consumers with more affordable and reliable renewable energy,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“Pumped hydro is economically viable right now and supports our grids by providing long term energy storage capacity that’s available on demand.”