Pumped hydro and Snowy 2.0

Energy storage is an increasingly important part of our electricity system as it allows us to ensure energy is always available even when the sun and wind are not. Pumped hydro is the most common and most mature form of this energy storage.

Dispatchable generation is generation that can be added into the market to balance electricity supply and demand. Pumped hydro, including Snowy 2.0, can help us deliver a more reliable energy system, reducing the risk of blackouts and electricity price volatility.

The Australian Government is:

  • Investing up to $8 million, through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), towards Snowy Hydro Limited’s feasibility study into expanding its pumped hydro capability within the Snowy Mountain Scheme. Snowy 2.0 will add an extra 2,000 megawatts of generation capacity to the National Electricity Market (NEM) and will increase capacity of the Snowy Scheme by 50%, enough to power 500,000 homes.
  • working with the Tasmanian Government to assess options for new pumped hydro energy storage schemes and expand existing hydro power stations. This would boost Hydro Tasmania’s energy output and store additional energy for the National Electricity Market.
  • supporting the development of pumped hydro capacity in South Australia and Northern Queensland.

How does pumped hydro work?

Pumped hydroelectricity (pumped hydro) schemes allow a flexible way of managing our demand for electricity. In conventional hydroelectricity generation, water flows from a dam or reservoir where it has been stored and is then channelled through rotating turbines: these turbines then generate power.

Pumped hydro operates on the same principle except that two dams, one higher than the other, work together to create a ‘recycling’ scheme that pumps water into the upper reservoir during off-peak hours. Potential energy is then stored and generated when it’s needed.

For example, when prices are cheap but demand is low, water in the low reservoir is pumped to the higher reservoir and the resulting energy sits in the high reservoir until it is needed.

When both prices and demand are high, the water is released back into the lower reservoir—gravity does much of the work, so this energy production is cheap and efficient.

What is Snowy 2.0?

Snowy 2.0 is a plan to connect the existing Snowy Scheme’s Tantangara and Talbingo reservoirs via a tunnel and an underground power station that will have a generating capacity of up to 2000 megawatts. The reversible pump/turbines are capable of lifting the water back up to Tantangara reservoir (an altitude difference of 680 metres). Snowy 2.0 will provide large-scale storage of energy that will be available as quick-start electricity generation at critical times of peak demand. Snowy 2.0 will make efficient use of our precious water resources to generate electricity without impacting on the supply of valuable irrigation and town water supplies for the food bowl of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Snowy Hydro’s feasibility study will be completed by December 2017.

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