Turnbull says Tasmania wind, hydro can become “energy battery” for Australia


Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has extended his vision of large-scale pumped hydro and storage to Tasmania, outlining plans to expand the island’s existing hydropower system, and possibly add 2,500MW in pumped hydro, and describing the possibility that the state could become the “renewable energy battery” for Australia.

The announcement comes just weeks after Turnbull unveiled a new study to investigate the so-called “Snowy 2.0”, a plan to add 2GW – with up to 175 hours of storage – in pumped hydro capacity in the Snowy Mountains; a move that would effectively kill the prospect of new coal or gas plants.

The latest announcement, made in Launceston with the Tasmanian premier and the state-owned Hydro Tasmania on Thursday, canvasses the possibility of adding a new cable between the island and the mainland, and significantly boosting both hydro capacity and wind energy to supply “baseload” renewables to the major markets.

Turnbull said the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) was in the process of assessing applications from Hydro Tasmania to support feasibility work into redeveloping the Tarraleah scheme and enhancing the Gordon Power Station.

It’s also considering an application to explore the utility of several new pumped hydro energy storage schemes that could deliver up to 2500MW of pumped hydro capacity: Mersey Forth-1, Mersey Forth-2, Great Lake and Lake Burbury – with capacity of around 500-700 MW each – and an alternative of nine small scale sites totalling 500MW.

“Its importance has become greater as the energy market has evolved. there is an opportunity for more wind and hydro today,” Turnbull said.

“We recognise that as the energy sources changes, we need to ensure that we have the storage … we have announced a study for the Snowy Hydro, but there is the opportunity here in Tasmania.

“It can double the capacity of hydro Tasmania, and it has the best wind assets in Australia. The roaring forties … are fantastic for wind farms. There is an opportunity for Tasmania to play a bigger part in ensuring that Australia has reliable and affordable energy, and meet emission reduction targets.

“Tasmania could become a renewable battery storage for Australia in an era of distributed, renewable power.”

The announcement came in tandem with the release of a study by Dr John Tamblyn into a second interconnector. Dr Tamblyn’s report finds another interconnector might be beneficial, but will depend on the ongoing development of the electricity system in Tasmania and the National Electricity Market.

Hydro Tasmania’s CEO Steve Davy said the company was looking to upgrade and expanding Tasmania’s hydropower network, as well as the potential for new private wind farm development and pumped storage opportunities, “to help lead Australia through the challenging (energy) transition.”

“We have nation-leading expertise in integrating renewable energy into the grid in a stable and affordable way. We’ve done that innovatively and successfully in Tasmania, and it’s the very challenge mainland Australia is starting to grapple with,” Davy said in a statement.

The studies would include an investigation into replacing one of Tasmania’s oldest operating power stations at Tarraleah in the Central Highlands, and expanding it from around 550GWh of renewable energy each year to more than 760GWh. The proposal involves constructing a 17-kilometre long underground tunnel from Lake King William and adding pumped hydro capacity.

There is also a study to add a third, smaller turbine to the Gordon power station, the largest in Tasmania, and the only station on the Gordon/Pedder scheme.

Recharge with water and wind energy


Seaformatics’ Waterlily is a portable turbine that can harness the power of both wind and water. Weighing 800g the waterlily is light and measuring 180mm by 75mm it is small and easily transported or taken camping, kayaking or cycling. When harvesting power from water the minimum flow required is 1 km/hr and flow for peak power output is 7.2 km/hr, although Waterlily can work in flows up to 11km/hr. The device can be submerged indefinitely up to almost 11 thousand metres. The components are all corrosion resistant for use in the ocean.

When harnessing energy from wind the minimum speed required is 10.8 km/hr with peak output at 72km/hr but the device can work in winds up to 90 km/hr. Any USB device can be charged with the Waterlily and Seaformatics will be adding a hand crank accessory for emergency use. In the future the device will also come with a bike mount and tow cable kit for towing behind a car or kayak. Waterlily is being developed by Canadian start-up company Saformatics based in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, that designs and manufactures power harvesting systems for the ocean monitoring industry. Seaformatics have miniaturized the technology so that hikers, campers, paddlers and cyclists can utilize the patent-pending, low-speed turbine while enjoying the outdoors. The four founders of the company are engineers who developed the technology as part of a 6 year multi-disciplinary engineering research project at Memorial University. Their technology was designed to work for long periods of time in the harsh ocean environment and their prototypes have been successfully tested for over 1400 days in real world subsea environments.

San Diego water board looking into pumped storage hydro


The San Diego County Water Authority board of directors on Thursday authorized the Water Authority, in conjunction with the city of San Diego, to begin seeking detailed proposals for a potential energy storage facility at San Vicente Reservoir.
The project could help ease pressure on power grids by producing locally generated renewable energy on demand, and also lessen upward pressure on water rates by providing a new source of revenue.
In January, the Water Authority and the city reached out to electric utilities, developers, investors and energy off-takers—other entities wishing to purchase the services that this project would provide—through a request for letters of interest to measure outside interest in participating in the potential San Vicente Energy Storage Facility. The project, which would provide up to 500 MW of renewable energy and increase the region’s electric grid stability during peak times for energy use, garnered significant interest through the advertised request.
The Water Authority received responses to the request from 18 qualified parties. These included five full-service entities that would finance, design, permit, build, and operate the potential project and secure an off-taker for the produced energy.
Other respondents included two developers, five off-takers, and six other parties interested in constructing the project, providing equipment for the project, or serving as a consultant for engineering, procurement, and construction services.
“We wanted to find out if there really is a broad desire among potential stakeholders to see a project like this in our region, and now we know there is,” said Mark Muir, chair of the Water Authority’s board of directors. “We’re now going to gather more details about how it could come together for the benefit of ratepayers.”
The interest letters received also helped the Water Authority and the city of San Diego identify preferred partnership models that minimize risk to the agencies. These potential partnerships include a lease model – in which the Water Authority and city of San Diego would receive a share of revenue for use of their water and land assets – and a limited partnership option.
Discussions with the qualified respondents substantiated major findings from feasibility studies of the potential project that began in late 2013, including:
· The potential project would be a valuable resource. Located in an energy load center, the project would help stabilize the energy transmission grid operated by the California
Independent System Operator (CAISO).
· The project size is appropriate. A 500 MW project with 5 to 8 hours of energy storage would help investor-owned utilities meet a state mandate to procure 50 percent of their energy from renewable energy sources by 2030.
· Infrastructure exists to support the project. Existing resources the project could capitalize on include the San Vicente Dam and Reservoir and a nearby high-voltage transmission line.
The potential project would consist of an interconnection and pumping system between the existing San Vicente Reservoir and a new, smaller reservoir located uphill. The system would be used during off-peak energy-use periods to pump water uphill to the new upper reservoir, creating in it a bank of stored hydroelectric energy. That energy would be released to the lower reservoir by gravity at times when other renewable energy supplies, such as solar, are unavailable and when energy demand and electricity costs are higher.
In addition to adding renewable energy to the region, energy storage could support electrical grid operations that are essential to integrating large new supplies of other renewable electricity into the California and Western power grids – notably solar, but also wind. It also makes it easier to quickly ramp up or down energy generation as needed.
The Water Authority already operates an energy storage facility at Lake Hodges, which in 2011 began its operations of pumping water to Olivenhain Reservoir and generating up to 40 megawatts of electricity on demand for the region through downhill releases. The agency’s San Vicente Dam Raise Project – completed in 2014 through a partnership with the city of San Diego – provided additional opportunity for energy storage because it created approximately 100,000 acre-feet of new regional carryover storage water supplies and 52,000 acre-feet of new emergency storage capacity. (This increase in water storage also increased the hydroelectric energy potential at the reservoir site.) The Water Authority owns the additional storage capacity created by the dam raise and completed filling its carryover storage capacity in summer 2016.
The request for proposals will solicit more specific information from potential project partners. It will require respondents – if not already a full-service team – to partner with other entities to provide a full-service team. Any interested parties can respond, including entities that did not previously respond to the request for letters of interest. The Water Authority expects to advertise the request for proposals by this summer, and evaluate received proposals by the end of this year.

Creating the ultimate hybrid system by mixing solar energy and hydroelectricity


Compared to its traditional solar counterparts, floating photovoltaic (FPV) allows standard solar panels to be installed on dead water spaces to maximize utility of resources, addressing potential conflicts in areas such as food vs. fuel on land use.

Solar energy has become much more accessible and affordable, making it extremely competitive to oil and gas. Prices have dropped significantly in previous years, allowing consumers to see a greater return on investment for solar energy. This opens up doors for individuals, private businesses and public utilities alike to seek long-term solar options. Unlike more popular choices, like rooftop and ground mounted solar, floating PV is quickly catching on as a third alternative to traditional solar especially amongst resource intensive industries.

Compared to its traditional solar counterparts, floating photovoltaic (FPV) allows standard solar panels to be installed on dead water spaces to maximize utility of resources. Valuable resources like land can then be solely used and dedicated to their industry i.e. for agricultural use in the case of “Food vs. Fuel”.

FPVs are now being combined with existing hydropower dams to create powerful energy generating hybrid systems, which will create a new renewable energy market to generate more energy, answer peak loads demand, increase economical benefits and also solve environmental issues. With the help of FPVs, mutually exclusive renewable energy sources, solar and hydropower, can now be combined into a more powerful source of synergy.

Floating solar as a third alternative

Floating solar is the latest green-tech and real alternative solar option that has been catching on worldwide. Currently there is more than 100 MWp of floating solar power installed globally, and is expected to climb to 5000 MWp by the end of 2017. Japan was the first country to adopt the solution because of its ability to conserve precious land and water. Now, FPVs have been implemented all over the globe in countries including: South Korea, China, UK, France, Brazil, Singapore, Malaysia, Italy and the United States.

Installation of FPVs can serve self-consumption by private or public entities, but has been especially valuable for energy and water intensive industries such as water treatment plants and reclamation facilities, wineries, and dairy farms that cannot afford to waste resources. Electricity generated by FPVs can also be fed back into the grid and sold to local electric utilities. The technology allows standard solar panels to be placed on top of man-made bodies of water such as industrial water ponds, quarry/mine lakes, irrigation reservoirs, retention ponds, drinking water surfaces, water treatment sites, aquaculture farms, desalinization reservoirs, canals and dams.

Installation is quick, simple and requires no heavy tools. The assembly of the floating structure happens offshore where the five main components are put together to create a floating island. The main float, which supports the 60 or 72 PV module, are attached to the secondary float, which maintains the buoyancy of the entire floating system, and are connected like Lego pieces with the connection pin. The modular floats are then lined up in rows where the secondary floats also provides the appropriate amount of spacing between each PV panel and also doubles as maintenance alleys. After assembly offshore, the floating structure is then pushed out and anchored to the side of the banks or onto the bottom of the body of water.

The anchors are the most important part of the installation process, so it is especially important to take into account all environmental impacts and hazards the floating structure may incur. Therefore, each anchoring system is adapted to each individual site with consideration to wind speed, water variation and ground soil composition to determine where to install the anchors. Then environmental hazards like wind, snow and rain are also taken into account for long-term durability. The design of the structure must prioritize the impact of wind variation as wind speeds test the structure’s integrity the most. With consideration to these factors, the anchors are able to withstand the worst-case scenarios and provide a long lasting solution.

Floating PV systems are cabled in the same way as ground mounted systems, except that the junction boxes (NEMA 4 X minimum) mounted on the floating arrays are connected to on-shore inverters using either a flexible marine DC cable or normal DC cable protected in an adapted waterproof and sealed floating conduit. The main electrical equipment is located on the embankment for easy and safe maintenance at all time.

Overall, floating solar creates a new use for the surface area of commercial and industrial bodies of water. In addition to the direct benefits, floating solar systems bring an array of environmental benefits. By covering a significant surface area on a body of water, the system conserves water by reducing evaporation and preserves existing ecosystems. It also improves water quality, while the shading of the panels reduces algal bloom. Lastly, it limits erosion of reservoir embankments by reducing wave action.

Thanks to the natural cooling effect of the water, PV panels operate much more efficiently and produce more power than traditional ground-mounted systems, thus providing enormous environmental, economic and social benefits. With a vast amount of untapped water resources, it is important to explore areas where floating solar can be used to double the amount of energy generated. So by taking advantage of the versatility floating solar provides and combining it with hydroelectric dams, entering this new marketplace optimizes power storage solutions as the cheapest way to store power using only renewables.

Challenges hydroelectric dams are currently facing

According to the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century, by the end of 2015, renewable capacity supplied an estimated 23.7% of global electricity, with hydropower generating about 16.6% of the world’s total electricity and 70% of all renewable electricity. Similar to solar power, the cost of hydropower is relatively low, making it a competitive source of renewable electricity. Although hydropower continues to provide the majority of renewable power capacity and generation–1064 GW as of 2015–the industry faces many challenges.

Persistent droughts have affected hydropower output in many regions, including the Americas and Southeast Asia, while investment and construction for new hydropower dams in more thriving areas have fallen due to heavy environmental impacts. Thus, climate risk and rise of variable renewable power are driving adaptation in the hydropower industry. Responses have included an increased emphasis on co-implementation of hydropower with solar and wind power.

Advantages & benefits of a hybrid hydroelectric and FPV system

Thus, establishing a synergy between hydroelectric dams and floating solar to generate even more energy. The hybridization allows panels to produce solar energy during the day while saving water for hydroelectricity to complete during intermittent times when the sun goes down. When water storage is possible, it also allows high-value hydropower to be produced at peak demand time.

Another great advantage when installing floating solar power on a dam is the benefit of using existing electrical infrastructure, including high voltage grid access and transformation devices. This drastically lowers the overall capex costs and makes projects happen quicker. Since solar and hydropower are smartly hybridized, exporting either solar or hydroelectricity according to the hour of the day, it is not necessary to augment transformation or transport capacity if the maximum peak output of the solar array does not exceed the maximum hydro peak capacity.
Dams seldom reach a full power production ratio over 4,000 hours per year, and often have a much lower ratio, leaving a large opportunity for energy generation to complete the grid output with solar.

Soon, investors in large solar plants will be confronted with a new financial issue where regulation boards will impose them to cope the intermittency problem by installing storage systems, mainly batteries. These storage systems, even if prices are decreasing, remain very expensive. Storing only one hour of peak power raises the capex price of a solar plant by 50% (with consideration to the cost of the solar plant equal to $800MWp, and cost of a 1MWh battery system equal to $400) For a hybrid dam FPV plant, the reservoir is the battery, and so the extra cost of storage is saved.

This completely renewable energy system was just perfected in Portugal at the Alto Rabagão Dam. Located in Montalegre, Portugal, it is the world’s first hybrid FPV and hydroelectric dam power plant system. With a total capacity of 68MWp, the dam adds an additional 220 kWp through the floating PV installation. The installed 840 floating PV panels is expected to generate 332 megawatts per hour in its first year—equivalent to the annual consumption of around 100 homes. This array will be extended as soon as the first results are computed.

The location of the Alto Rabagão dam, built in the 60’s presented new technical challenges due to the water variation and depth. The operator EDP, that operates the pumped-storage hydroelectric power plant on the 94 meters tall wall of the dam wanted confidence that the floating system would not create any possible conflict of use with their asset even in case they have to have an emergency drawdown of the water. Following those conditions, the floating solar array has been designed and was moored at more than 60 meters in depth, while dealing with a water level variation of 30 meters.

After success at the Alto Rabagão Dam, another experiment will start in Brazil, at the Balbina Dam, in Amazonia state, with an initial 5 MW peak capacity. The Balbina Dam currently suffers from drought issues, sedimentation, and high greenhouse gas emissions because of the drowned forest. By adding solar energy, it could easily double the total power of the dam to 250 MWp, by covering less than 1/1000th of the lake surface.

Future projections for floating solar in other hybrid systems

Dams have several purposes: providing electricity of course, regulating the river flow and supplying water for irrigation. Water for irrigation is extremely valuable, because uses are endless, mainly for agriculture, the largest water user at global scale accounting for around 70%. Therefore, future trends are heading towards a higher need of water for this purpose. If power capacity is increased with the addition of a solar plant, then the dam managers will be able to allow more water for irrigation.

Also, any dams equipped with a pumped storage with a double reservoir (PHES) are placed in an even better situation for solar hybrid systems. During the sunny hours, solar electricity can be, without export limitation, used to raise water in the upper reservoir to provide power capacity in the evening or during cloudy periods. Reservoirs are usually much smaller here in those facilities, however they are still large enough to generate a significant part of the required pumping power.

Redefining wave power – tapping into the global potential



From a eureka moment in the bath to the observation of an apple falling from the tree, inspiration often strikes at the least expected moments. For Dr. Stig Lundbäck, a cardiologist from Stockholm, it was the pumping mechanisms of the human heart that led to his idea for a viable wave energy converter. 

A serial inventor and holder of more than 100 patents, Lundbäck understood the gap between a good idea and a feasible technology. He eventually secured the support of InnoEnergy – the innovation engine for sustainable energy.

“We were immediately interested because wave energy remains the last great untapped source of cost-effective renewable energy,” says Kenneth Johansson, InnoEnergy’s CEO in Stockholm. “Although we have seen commercially viable technologies for harvesting tidal energy emerge, realistic solutions for taking advantage of wave energy are much rarer. Dr Lundbäck’s concept was a significant advance on other technologies, so we arranged for our business coaches and technology experts to evaluate it both technically and economically.”

The wave energy potential

The opportunity presented by wave power is significant. More predictable, consistent and controllable than either wind or solar power, with the right infrastructure in place, it could be a sustainable alternative for supplying base-load power. It also has a very low impact, that neither disturbs aquatic life nor spoils the coastal view that prompts so much ire from the public.

Wave power also fits within the new energy framework being created by distributed energy resources and off-grid applications. Although major utilities, particularly those with extensive offshore wind portfolios, are likely to be the major developers of wave energy farms, single installations can also serve more remote, smaller island-based or coastal communities – and even tourist resorts – particularly in developing economies.

Studies show that wave energy is five times more concentrated than wind and 10 times more concentrated than solar. In fact, wave energy could supply 10 per cent of global energy demand – or four times the installed capacity of nuclear energy today. That wave energy has not achieved its potential is our big opportunity,” says Johansson.

“Anyone concerned with developing wave energy in Europe will look to the Atlantic coast of France, Spain and Portugal, or the waters around Scotland and Ireland and see enormous possibilities – but until now, have not seen the technology to harvest it.”

Realising the concept

The possibilities inherent in wave energy is what has driven the product development of CorPower – from an initial concept to the creation of a company that is preparing to launch a complete prototype system later in 2017. Following positive assessments of the initial technology by InnoEnergy and various external experts, CorPower Ocean has been able to develop the wave energy converter concept into a practical, feasible and competitive product.

Patrik Möller, CEO of CorPower Ocean explains the challenges of bringing a viable wave energy technology to market. Despite many trials, to date no one has succeeded in making a commercial product. The challenge is to have a device that is robust enough to survive a tough ocean environment while generating enough revenue over time to make it a viable business case. Many concepts found storm conditions challenging – or their size and weight made them too expensive compared to their energy output.

“The more we explored, we realised there was a significant and principle difference in the way the CorPower device can harvest wave energy and overcomes these reliability problems. In 2012 when we took the idea to wave energy research centres like WavEC Offshore Renewables in Lisbon and NTNU in Trondheim, they agreed that we were on to something. We have been working with their research groups ever since.”

Innovative, efficient – and storm-proof

CorPower Ocean’s wave energy converters comprise a heaving buoy on the surface of the sea that is connected to the seabed by a taut mooring line, and which absorbs energy from the combined surge and heave motion of the waves. A pneumatic pre-tension module runs between the mooring line and the buoy, creating a system with high natural oscillation frequency that is smaller and lighter than conventional gravity-balanced converters.

While CorPower was developing the product, researchers at Trondheim University invented an innovative phase control technology, which CorPower and NTNU agreed to co-develop. Known as WaveSpring, the patented control system makes the buoy inherently resonant over a broad range of wave periods. It amplifies the motion of and power capture from regular waves, while allowing the system to be naturally ‘de-tuned’ during storm conditions. Tank testing has shown that the buoy can survive waves of up to 32 metres without excessive load on the structure. This significantly improves the system’s ability to survive in harsh conditions and so lengthens its productive lifecycle. After proving the WaveSpring technology with CorPower, the NTNU inventor Jörgen Hals Todalshaug joined the company as Lead Scientist.  

In addition, a proprietary, highly durable drive train is responsible for transforming amplified linear motion into rotation motion. Because the cascade gear divides a large load onto a number of smaller gears – much like a planetary gearbox – it is capable of providing high-power density and high efficiency.

To eliminate the peaks and troughs of power supply, the buoys incorporate a dual set of flywheels/generators that provide power absorption and temporary energy storage. These generators and the power electronics behind them are based on standard components used in the offshore wind industry. Finally, a programmable logic controller is located inside the device to allow the buoy to operate autonomously, while an interface enables remote control and data acquisition by onshore engineers over fibre and a radio-link.


Tests show that the technology delivers optimal performance at sea-depths between 50 and 100 metres.

From prototype to commercial product

According to Möller, CorPower’s success can also be attributed to its development approach as well as its innovative technology: “We are one of the first wave energy companies to strictly follow a structured verification approach set by the IEA-OES and Wave Energy Scotland. We started on a small scale to prove the reliability and performance of the different pieces of the technology and gradually scaled up, securing funding for further tests as we went along.

There are no short cuts – you can’t build and scale before basic principles of hydrodynamics, system stability and robustness have been proven.”

In accordance with this philosophy, the CorPower device has been through a number of iterations since the first bench top prototypes were developed. The concept was first validated in 2012 on a 1:30 scale model with €500,000 funding. Wave tank and HIL tests were performed with WavEC, NTNU and KTH on 1:16 to 1:3 scale prototypes, with a further €1.7 million.

CorPower has just started dry testing a half-scale device in a custom-built test environment that emulates wave impacts on the device to prove reliable operation up to full storm and mechanical loading. In the second half of the year, ocean testing will begin at EMEC’s Scapa Flow site in Orkney, with project partners Iberdrola, EDP, University of Edinburgh, WavEC and EMEC. After completing this Stage 3 program the company aims to start work on the next stage 4 pilot together with leading partners of the sector.

Throughout the Stage 3 program, CorPower has attracted funding from the Swedish Energy Agency and Wave Energy Scotland, in addition to InnoEnergy. A new program named WaveBoost, supported by EC’s Horizon 2020 funding, was recently started to further develop innovative concepts that can be introduced at the point of market introduction, without disrupting the architectural design that has been tested. 

A viable future

Möller is confident about CorPower’s prospects: “All the testing and prototyping shows that the technology can generate five times as much energy per tonne and three times as much energy per force compared to previously known solutions to harvest wave energy. We’ve also been able to design it to be robust, compact and significantly lighter than traditional models, so installation, service, maintenance and decommissioning are much easier – giving a low OPEX per kilowatt.”

Möller acknowledges that developments in subsea power cabling and related technologies in both the offshore wind and oil and gas sectors, are also contributing to an increasingly favourable technological and commercial environment for wave power.

“There is an extent to which we are piggy backing on the developments made in offshore wind,” he explains. “But the trajectory is very different. Wind turbines have been optimised over 30 years to achieve 10 megawatt hours per tonne of device. Our device aims to show a similar level of structural efficiency within five years. We anticipate that this will allow the technology to be competitive with most advanced wind and solar implementations after reaching a moderate install base, and better than nuclear, oil and coal.”

If all goes according to plan, 2017 could be the year that wave energy finally comes in from the deep.

PM advised hydro energy could solve issues



The prime minister has been advised pumped hydro energy storage could go a long way towards solving Australia’s energy security problems within four to seven years.

Pumped hydro involves using surplus energy to pump water uphill to a storage reservoir. The water can then be released downhill to generate electricity on demand.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has told Malcolm Turnbull pumped hydro could be the key to unlocking ‘cost-effective large-scale energy storage that can stabilise high levels of renewable energy in the national electricity grid’, such as in South Australia.

‘Pumped hydro is the only mature, bankable technology that is readily available at scale,’ ARENA chief Ivor Frischknecht said.

‘However, the lead times are long. Most PHES projects take between four to seven years to develop and construct with the majority of cost associated with civil engineering and construction.’

Pumped hydro is not new to Australia but there have been no major projects for the past three decades.

Australia’s current 2.5 GW of pumped hydro capacity comes from three main projects: Snowy Hydro’s Tumut 3, Wivenhoe Dam near Brisbane and the Shoalhaven scheme south of Sydney.

If all of Australia’s existing pumped hydro facilities were operating at full capacity they would produce enough energy to power 3.3 million homes, based on average energy consumption.

ARENA is backing three projects and concepts.

Australian National University is mapping potential short-term, off-river pumped hydro energy storage sites.

These are pairs of reservoirs separated by an altitude difference of 300 to 900 metres, in hilly terrain, and joined by a pipe.

Potential sites have been identified near South Australia’s Spencer Gulf and the valleys of the Hunter, Illawarra, and lower Blue Mountains regions of NSW.

Genex Power is working on a project at the disused Kidston gold mine in Queensland.

Energy Australia is undertaking a feasibility study into a seawater project in the Cultana region of South Australia.

Mr Frischknecht said one of the key benefits of pumped storage was its ability to complement shorter-term battery storage, which is also being examined in a number of states.



Huge wind turbines are to combine with hydropower in a German forest



In Germany, two renewable energy sources are being combined in a novel project looking to break new ground and transform the scenery of a German forest.

GE, through GE Renewable Energy, has signed an agreement with Max Bögl Wind AG to both deliver and commission what it has described as “the world’s tallest and first ever wind turbine integrated with pumped storage hydro-electric power.”

In and of themselves, wind and hydro are becoming increasingly important sources of power. The International Energy Agency (IEA), for example, describes hydropower as “the largest single renewable electricity source today.” Wind energy, it states, is moving towards becoming a “mainstream, competitive and reliable power technology.”

The scale of the project GE is involved in, which is based in the Swabian-Franconian Forest in Germany, is considerable.

The wind turbine towers used in the project will have a “total tip height” of 246.5 meters, with each tower’s base and surrounding area used as a water reservoir.

“We’ve got a series of wind turbines, that are kind of… conventional, except that in the base of them we’ve got a storage reservoir that actually surrounds the base of the wind turbines,” Cliff Harris, who manages GE Renewable Energy’s onshore wind portfolio in EMEA, told CNBC in a phone interview.

In addition, a valley nearby – around 200 metres below the turbines – will be home to a lake and a pump/generator hydro plant with a capacity of 16 megawatts.

“When the wind blows, we generate electricity from the wind turbines,” Harris said. “When the demand for electricity is high you can release water from the reservoirs that are held around the base of the turbines down the hill, through the turbines and into the reservoir,” he added.

“And then, at times when there’s not so much demand you can actually pump the water back up hill and it’s ready to use again.”

Construction of the project is underway, Harris added. GE has said that the four turbines are anticipated to be commissioned by the end of the year, with the “full” power plant expected to be in operation by the end of 2018.

Hydropower: Switzerland’s massive source of renewable energy



With its snow kissed peaks and fresh alpine air, Switzerland is one of Europe’s most scenic countries. It is also home to a lot of hydropower.

According to the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE), hydropower accounts for roughly 56 percent of its domestic electricity production.

As such, the SFOE describes hydropower as being “Switzerland’s most important domestic source of renewable energy.”

At the Hydraulic Constructions Laboratory (LCH) in Lausanne, researchers are looking to hone and optimize hydropower facilities.

“This Laboratory was created in parallel with the development of water infrastructure in Switzerland – mainly (the) construction of dams, but also of course hydropower,” Anton Schleiss, head of the LCH and president of the International Commission on Large Dams, told CNBC’s Sustainable Energy.

A great deal of emphasis is placed on the maintenance of hydropower facilities.

“Rehabilitation is very important for our structures related to hydropower and flood protection,” the LCH’s Giovanni de Cesare, said.

“These infrastructures are ageing and we have to rehabilitate regarding security, energy production, and also ecological rehabilitation,” he added.

Given the scale of many hydropower facilities, their impact can be considerable, whether it be the displacement of local people or damage to wildlife.

As such, sympathetic design needs to be considered.

“When we build a dam, this becomes an obstacle for fish migration, therefore we have to install a fish pass which allows the fish to migrate freely and reproduce in the upstream rivers,” de Cesare said.

Hydro storage can secure 100 percent renewable electricity



Pumped hydro storage can be used to help build a secure and cheap Australian electricity grid with 100 per cent renewable energy, a new study from The Australian National University (ANU) has found.

Lead researcher Professor Andrew Blakers from ANU said the zero-emissions grid would mainly rely on wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, with support from pumped hydro storage, and would eliminate Australia’s need for coal and gas-fired power.

“With Australia wrestling with how to secure its energy supply, we’ve found we can make the switch to affordable and reliable clean power,” said Professor Blakers from the ANU Research School of Engineering.

Professor Blakers said wind and solar PV  provided nearly all new generation capacity in Australia and half the world’s new generation capacity each year. At present, renewable energy accounts for around 15 per cent of Australia’s electricity generation while two thirds comes from coal-fired power stations.

“However, most existing coal and gas stations will retire over the next 15 years, and it will be cheaper to replace them with wind and solar PV,” he said.

The ANU research considers the potential benefits of using hydro power , where water is pumped uphill and stored to generate electricity on demand.

“Pumped hydro energy storage is 97 per cent of all storage worldwide, and can be used to support high levels of solar PV and wind,” Professor Blakers said.

Professor Blakers said the cost of a 100 per cent stabilised renewable electricity system would be around AU$75/MWh, which is cheaper than coal and gas-fuelled power.

ANU is leading a study to map potential short-term off-river pumped hydro energy storage (STORES) sites that could support a much greater share of  in the grid.

STORES sites are pairs of reservoirs, typically 10 hectares each, which are separated by an altitude difference of between 300 and 900 metres, in hilly terrain, and joined by a pipe with a pump and turbine. Water is circulated between the upper and lower reservoirs in a closed loop to store and generate power.

Dr Matthew Stocks from the ANU Research School of Engineering said STORES needed much less water than power generated by fossil fuels and had minimal impact on the environment because water was recycled between the small reservoirs.

“This hydro power doesn’t need a river and can go from zero to full  in minutes, providing an effective method to stabilise the grid,” he said.

“The water is pumped up from the low reservoir to the high reservoir when the sun shines and wind blows and electricity is abundant, and then the  can run down through the turbine at night and when electricity is expensive.”

Co-researcher Mr Bin Lu said Australia had hundreds of potential sites for STORES in the extensive hills and mountains close to population centres from North Queensland down the east coast to South Australia and Tasmania.

EnergyAustralia ponders world’s largest seawater pumped hydro energy storage plant



 The proposed project would be situated at the northern end of the Spencer Gulf with 300 metres elevation. Credit: EnergyAustralia

Major power firm EnergyAustralia is studying the feasibility of building a huge pumped hydroelectric energy storage project in the Spencer Gulf of South Australia.

Standing at 100MW with six-to-eight hours of storage, this would not only be the second ever seawater-based pumped hydro storage project in the world, it would also be the largest.

EnergyAustralia claimed that the project would account for the equivalent of 60,000 home battery storage systems, but at a third of the price, while helping to stabilise and integrate clean energy to the grid.

Air-conditioning is clearly a major challenge for the country’s grid operators and the project could offer some respite.

“On hot days, when demand spikes, a pumped hydro plant can be brought into action in minutes, keeping the lights on and costs down,” said EnergyAustralia managing director Catherine Tanna. “We’re really excited by its potential.”

The proposed project would be situated at the northern end of the Spencer Gulf with 300 metres elevation, two kilometres from the coastline and in close proximity to high voltage transmission lines.

Pumped hydro storage involves pumping water from a lower reservoir to a higher reservoir, when energy produced is cheaper or in excess. In peak periods, the water can be released downwards to run a turbine, which then generates electricity.

Since 2013, EnergyAustralia’s project partners, Melbourne Energy Institute and engineering consultancy Arup Group, have been investigating how to adapt traditional fresh water pumped hydro for use with seawater instead – a need for innovation driven by Australia’s dry conditions.

The feasibility study for the new project is touted for completion by mid-2017 and if then approved via consultation with stakeholders and government, it will require a two-year construction period.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has also written to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) asking them to prioritise pumped hydro and storage. Grid stabilising has become a major poltical issue in Australia over the last few months after several disruptive blackouts in South Australia and other states. This led to a furore surrounding integration of renewables into the grid with various energy bodies and environmentalists arguing over whether renewbales had any role in the power cuts.

Tellingly, even Turnbull noted that a storm had caused the South Australia power issues.

Construction starts on solar-plus-hydro storage project

In related news, construction has started on the first phase of what will be Australia’s largest solar plant, just off the back of reaching financial closure.

While a second phase of 270MW of solar is planned at the 50MW Kidston solar farm at a gold mine in Queensland, energy firm Genex Power is also considering developing an accompanying 250MW Kidston pumped storage hydro project, which it found could be connected to the solar plant in a recent study.

This would be the first Australian example of co-locating a large-scale solar farm with a large-scale pumped hydro storage project.

Genex forecasts that the pumped hydro storage project will support 1,500MWh of continuous power in a single 6-hour generation cycle. Despite many instances of pumped storage deployment worldwide, there are only three pumped hydro storage projects operating in Australia at Tumut and the Shoalhaven in New South Wales and at Wivenhoe in Queensland.

The Kidston solar project received a debt funding arrangement of approximately AU$100 million (US$76.9 million) from Société Générale, with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) taking care of the EPC requirements and O&M costs.