Funding injection for pumped storage in Australia

26 February 2018

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the South Australia government have announced funding support totaling $2 million for pumped storage development plans in the country.

On behalf of the Australian Government, ARENA is committing $500,000 to GFG Alliance to support a feasibility study to assess the potential to turn a mothballed mine in South Australia into a 90MW pumped hydro energy storage plant. The funding will allow the GFG to begin the first phase of establishing the technical and commercial feasibility of bringing the disued mine site in the South Middleback Ranges, near Whyalla, back to life as a pumped storage plant.

The $1.7 million project will investigate if the existing mine pit of “Iron Duchess North” could be utilised as a lower reservoir creating an estimated capacity of 90MW and 390MWh of storage.

The first stage of feasibility is expected to be completed by late 2018. This will include high level designs, engineering studies, network studies, geotechnical investigation, market modelling and commercial evaluation.

If successful, the $170 million Middleback Ranges plant could be built by 2022.

The South Australian Government announced a few weeks ago that it is committing $500,000 to the feasibility study.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the feasibility study was the first stage in assessing possible sites to store South Australia’s growing renewable energy generation. “South Australia has ideal wind and solar resources to support large scale renewable generation, so we will need energy storage options to harness and store this capacity so it is available at all times.

“We are excited to explore the potential of old mining assets being turned into renewable energy storage which can provide dispatchable and reliable power,” he said.

ARENA has also announced an additional $500,000 in funding to EnergyAustralia for the next stage of the 225MW Cultana seawater pumped hydro plant in South Australia, with the South Australian Government also committing $500,000 to the feasibility study for the project.

The $8 million feasibility study involves advancing the project to a final investment decision and will involve the completion of project design including geotechnical investigations and equipment specifications, environmental impact studies and grid connection works.

If built, the Cultana facility would be the largest seawater pumped hydro facility ever constructed in the world, and the first in Australia. A 30MW plant was built in Okinawa in Japan in 1999, and operated for 17 years.

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