Back to the future with pumped hydro energy storage

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One of Australia’s oldest and most prolific methods of generating energy is poised to transform the electricity network - again.

In this episode of ReWired we take a deep dive into one of the oldest energy storage technologies - pumped hydro.

More than a century on from the establishment of the Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Department, new hydro projects are being developed as part of work to prepare for a future powered by renewables.

In this episode, we hear from Hydro Tasmania CEO Steve Davy about the vision for the island state to become a national powerhouse. Chief Scientist Alan Finkel and AEMO CEO Audrey Zibelman share their insights into how pumped hydro will fit into the future energy mix, and ARENA CEO Darren Miller outlines some of the work underway to help this technology become commercial.

How could it work?

While the technology that underpins pumped hydro is not new, there are only a few working systems around the country.

The two biggest projects in the pipeline - Snowy 2.0 and Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation - have a collective capacity of about 4500 MW. According to Snowy Hydro, the 2000 MW Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro facility could power three million homes for more than a week when operating at full capacity. 

The large output and long duration makes pumped hydro well suited to complement large-scale renewables, with the capacity to store energy from windy and sunny periods for when generation drops.

One challenge is sending electricity from remote sites suited to large-scale pumped hydro facilities to distant population centres where it is needed. Tasmania’s plan to build the “Battery of the Nation” to bolster the National Electricity Market has a particularly big hurdle to overcome - Bass Strait.

With the existing BassLink interconnector at capacity, work is underway to advance the plan for a second connection to the mainland. The business case for the proposed “Marinus Link” is well-developed and the second interconnector is on track to enter service as soon as 2027.

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Rewired is back for its biggest season yet. In season four, we will hear how ARENA funding is helpi 
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