Cultana Pumped Hydro Project: Knowledge Sharing Report

One of the main challenges faced by the Australian energy sector is integrating a growing share of renewable energy sources in the electricity generation mix, while preserving the security and affordability of energy supply. Grid-scale energy storage is expected to play a key role in the gradual transition from dispatchable fossil-fuel fired generation to intermittent renewables by supporting the reliability of electricity supply and stability of the grid.

Pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) is expected to provide a viable solution for firming up intermittent renewables – it offers large capacity storage with longer hours of energy supply, and a long asset life. PHES utilises electricity at times of low demand or excess supply to pump water to the upper reservoir and returns the power to the grid through the turbine at times of high demand. In addition, PHES can provide a range of ancillary services critical to grid stability, such as inertia, voltage, frequency support, and system restart capabilities.

A consortium of EnergyAustralia, Arup and the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne Energy Institute (MEI), has undertaken a feasibility study, with funding assistance from ARENA, for a seawater pumped hydro energy storage (SPHES) project at a site on the Cultana Training Area (CTA) near the north-western tip of the Spencer Gulf in SA. Seawater pumped hydro was studied due to the lack of freshwater resources in SA and limited freshwater catchments outside of environmentally sensitive areas. The CTA site was selected based on the elevation, proximity to the coast, proximity to grid connection and minimal environmental and cultural impacts.

The aim of the feasibility study was to determine:

  • the optimum sizing of the project, within the range of 100MW to 250MW;
  • the capital and operating costs anticipated for the project;
  • the commercial model for the project including sources and quantum of revenues;
  • the likely cost of grid connection;
  • land access, environment, community and stakeholder issues;
  • potential regulatory and market changes that may impact the project;
  • potential financing solutions; and
  • the overall technical and economic viability of the project.

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ARENA, EnergyAustralia, Melbourne Energy Institute, Arup Group

ARENA, EnergyAustralia, Melbourne Energy Institute, Arup Group

Reports and working papers

Research Areas:
Energy storage; Energy systems; Energy policy; Pumped hydroelectric

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