Pumped hydro plants one of cheapest sources of electricity

Pumped hydro plants one of cheapest sources of electricity

Here’s some useful data from Acciona about pumped hydro however they still talk about pumped hydro as though it will be used to match demand peaks. Our modelling has shown that the critical times in a renewable energy grid will be to match wind and solar lulls or droughts, rather than demand peaks.

Typically such lulls in energy production will last for a few days and to meet this periods we need deep pumped hydro storage that will be able to support the grid for multiday periods. Careful site selection means has resulted in sites with substantial storage and an ability to meet these future challenges.

Such a pumped hydro station is quite challenging to model how it would interact with the national grid so we have created a digital twin of such a power station. It has taken years of work but now means we can predict with high confidence its operation on a minute by minute basis. It can use detailed historic data adjusted to allow for changes in volatility that will come with variable renewable energy sources.

The article from Acciona is a useful summary of how pumped hydro has been used and while reading if you keep in mind the changes coming it can offer a good insight into how we can strengthen our future grid.


Michael Myer

Michael Myer


Michael is a serial entrepreneur with venture capital experience in startup ventures, venture capital and sustainable development. He has a passionate interest in bringing engineering and economics to projects to support our social and environmental challenges.

In recent years Michael has been the leading practitioner of Conservation Sustainable Development in the country having developed “Sunrise at 1770” at Agnes Water on the Great Barrier Reef. This development won the award for the Best Environmental Development in Queensland in 2007 (UDIA), the Best Environmental Development in Australia in 2008 (UDIA) and then the Silver Medal for the Best Environmental Development in the world (FBICA) in 2009.

Michael is closely involved in development of hydrogen as fuel and now brings his guidance to Sunshine Hydro to commercialise our projects.

Tim Cummings

Tim Cummings

Tim is a software engineer, mathematician and chemical engineer. He consults on energy optimisation, and has 25 years’ experience developing software for engineering applications including pinch analysis of energy flows in refineries. Recently, he successfully combined his skills in software development, accounting, business, logistics and maths for an energy trading and risk management project at Caltex Australia.

In his spare time, Tim loves harnessing the free energy which nature provides. He sails, windsurfs and competes in hang-gliding competitions. Versatile, innovative and wholistic by nature, Tim developed the world’s first software for tracking GPS devices in hang-gliding events. 

Strathclyde University discussion paper on Pumped Hydro

Strathclyde University discussion paper on Pumped Hydro

The case for pumped hydro in the UK energy mix is put in this paper recently released by the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

The authors draw three main conclusions:

  • First, that there is a need to recognise and articulate the societal value
    that may be delivered by EES.
  • Second, a market framework that recognises this value is needed.
  • Third, development through both of these first two stages requires greater policy certainty and clarity round
    low carbon economic development pathways in general, and the outcomes that may be served by EES in particular.

The authors compare the regulatory environment 30 years ago when the electricity transmission and generation were run and funded by a centralised system in which it is relatively easy to identify the value of pumped hydro, to the de-regulated market system operating today.  In terms of grid codes today, Electricity Energy Storage is classed as both a generator and consumer exposing operators to both transmission and distribution network charges [41], as well as to other levies despite the fact that electricity is neither generated nor consumed.

The full paper is available here

Summary of projects

Summary of projects

Here is an outline of some the projects we are working on:


An off-river pumped hydro project of nameplate capacity 600MW and 20 hours storage. The power station is close to a 275kV transmission line. The project is in a high rainfall area adjacent to an intermittent but reliable creek. The project is close to announced solar projects. The head is relatively high at over 400m.


This site has potential for multiday storage, providing a very attractive metric for cost per kWh for an 80MW nameplate capacity power station. The site is attractive due to a terrain which is well suited to efficient dam construction and permits a large storage volume. It is an area with distinct seasonal wind patterns that suggest long duration storage would be useful for providing renewable energy security.


This 90 to 200 MW power station is located on a site with very suitable terrain, little environmental risk, interested landholders, supportive local council, and existing high renewable energy penetration. The site qualities encourage long duration multiday storage which lowers the cost per kwh for the project. It is close to various transmission options.


This project is designed for 20 hours operation at full power of 60 MW. This project has an advantage of an existing lower dam and close to existing and planned renewable energy projects. Environmental risk is low and the land is held by one owner, and distance to HV transmission is short.


This is the largest of the project opportunities at 1,400 MW with 20 hours of storage. It has the potential to connect to an unconstrained hub on the grid. Should this proceed it would be a project of national significance and would provide dispatchable capacity at half the cost of the headline Snowy 2 project. It would also catalyse and become the anchor for a renewable energy hub.


This project has a nameplate capacity of 600MW and 20 hours storage. When matched with appropriate wind and solar assets this power station can replace retiring coal fired power. Its strengths include the ability to connect into two high voltage transmission lines, has low environmental risk and is located in a proactive local government area close to other renewable energy projects, and engaged landowners.

Goat Hill Pumped Hydro receives development approval

Goat Hill Pumped Hydro receives development approval

Goat HillDelta Electricity has received development approval from the South Australian government for the 230-MW Goat Hill pumped hydro project.  The 230MW/1840MWh project, located 12 km west of Port Augusta will involve an investment of approximately $410 million and create about 200 jobs during construction according to project developer Altura.

Work is already underway for detailed plant design and construction contracting so the Goat Hill project may be the first ‘shovel ready’ pumped hydro project in South Australia. The project is moving towards reaching an investment during 2018. The developer estimates the construction period will be two years and first generation is possible by late 2020.

The project is located near Lincoln Gap near Port Augusta in the Spencer Gulf. Water supply for this project will be from the SA Water Morgan Whyalla Pipeline. Evaporation covers will minimise losses.

Gerald Arends

Gerald Arends


M: +61 468 841 854
E:   gerald@sunshinehydro.com.au

Gerald is a senior lawyer specialising in energy and infrastructure projects (in particular renewable energy) having worked in Australia, the UK and Germany. He has advised contractors, project sponsors, banks and procuring authorities on projects in Australia and overseas.

Gerald is an industry leader in the renewable energy sector having advised on projects in more than 20 countries both from within the industry and as a practising lawyer.  He is a director of Pegasus Legal, an energy and infrastructure boutique legal practice.  Most recently, Gerald has successfully closed market-leading transactions in Australia, the Philippines and Japan.

He also has substantial expertise in the transport industry, having worked on numerous rail and airport projects in the UK, Europe, India and Australia.

Other activities: Gerald is the Secretary of Brisbane Symphony Orchestra, a leading community orchestra serving South-East Queensland.  Gerald has been a Visiting Lecturer within the LL.M. programme at the University of Warwick (UK) and within the L.L.M. programme at the University of Queensland (Australia).

Chris Baker

Chris Baker

M: 0409466271
E: chris@sunshinehydro.com.au

Chris is a generalist civil engineer and software engineer with a recent focus on electro-mobility and renewable energy integration.

Past experience includes infrastructure projects such as construction planning of coal loader offshore works, detailed design of highway grade separated interchanges, design and systems analysis for highway design software used in 42 countries, design and construction of municipal facilities.

Chris is a joint venture partner in Eco Boats Australia Pty Ltd a leading marine electro-mobility company with offices in Sydney and Brisbane. Chris is the technical lead for design and implementation of electrical propulsion systems for yachts, motor boats, work boats and small vessels. He has a special interest in renewable energy powered vessels.

Chris’s company Creative Engineering Australia Pty Ltd has developed software for geometric design of Highways and other major civil engineering projects. The software has been translated to French, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, and Hungarian and has been used in 42 countries world wide for a variety of infrastructure projects. Creative Engineering also provides consulting services for renewable energy integration and infrastructure planning.

Sorin Lupulescu

Sorin Lupulescu

Sorin is a specialist in pumped hydro power station operation and maintenance, with expertise in catchment hydro and thermal power generation.

Sorin was manager of Wivenhoe Power Station for 11 years — the largest hydro machine in the Australia and Queensland’s only pumped hydro plant. As well as CS Energy, the owner of Wivenhoe Power Station, Sorin has also worked for  Hydro Tasmania as Power Schemes engineering manager, for Fluor Global in the role of Operations Engineer and for Macquarie Generation at Bayswater Power Station.

Sorin is adviser to Sunshine Hydro, and lives north of Brisbane with his wife Bianca.

Donovan Burton

Donovan Burton


Donovan is a climate change adaptation specialist with a diverse portfolio of experience, having completed more than 150 climate change risk and adaptation projects. He is focused on influencing change adaptation governance through disruptive technology, big data and the internet of things. Donovan recently founded the Informed.City platform for climate change adaptation governance assessments. In the past 12 months the platform has been used to understand the adaptation governance of 230 organisations across numerous jurisdictions.

Over the past decade Donovan has  helped numerous organizations identify risks and opportunities associated with climate change. His sector experience in this space includes insurance, property development, infrastructure (including roads, rail, ports, tunnels), information communication technology, United Nations, national governments, state governments, local governments, NGOs