Funding for two pumped hydro storage projects

Thursday, 22 February, 2018

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Two pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) projects have received $1m in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

The first $500,000 will be provided to Energy Australia for the next-stage feasibility study into the Cultana seawater PHES project — a project that would be the first of its kind in Australia and have a capacity equivalent to more than 126,000 home batteries at a third of the cost.

In February 2017, ARENA provided $453,000 to conduct an initial feasibility study into the project which found it could generate 225 MW/1770 MWh of electricity. Including engineering assessments, planning approvals and financial modelling, the first feasibility study determined the project could be constructed and fully operational by 2023.

This next-stage feasibility study will complete the project design, including studies on environmental impacts and connection to the grid.

The second $500,000 will be provided to Zen Energy and SIMEC Mining for phase one of a feasibility study into a PHES project at the former Iron Duchess North mine in the South Middleback Ranges near Whyalla.

Using an existing mine pit as a lower reservoir, the project has an estimated capacity of 90 MW/390 MWh. The technical and commercial feasibility study will include high-level designs, engineering studies, network studies, geotechnical investigation, market modelling and commercial evaluation.

A 2017 report by the Australian Council of Learned Academies noted that no large-scale pumped hydro facilities have been built in Australia in the last 30 years, according to Minister for Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg.

South Australia is facing a significant transition issue which is implicating both system security and electricity pricing. That’s why the government is investing in such projects, said Frydenberg.

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