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. Socially, the site is close to regional towns that are affected by under-employment of the skilled construction and operations labour force.


Located close to wind and solar farms in Queensland, this project has a nameplate capacity of 300MW and 33 hours storage. The power station is close to a 275kV high voltage transmission line. At over 300m head, this project falls in the midrange for head and its environmental risk is low. It is in an area of engaged local farmers with an appetite for renewable energy projects.


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.

Ranking chart
Ranking chart
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

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

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.

Other activities: Chris is a board member of the Association of Sustainable Communities, Co-Convener of Pine Rivers Greens.

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

Snowy 2 feasibility study released

Snowy 2 feasibility study released

Snowy Hydro’s independent Board of Directors has approved the Snowy 2.0 feasibility study, and for further work to be undertaken for the project to progress to a final investment decision in 2018.

According to the feasibility study released 20th December 2017 the technical and financial feasibility is confirmed. The board has withheld the chapters of the report which show the financial modelling and pricing of the project on the grounds of being commercially sensitive.

Snowy Hydro’s CEO, Paul Broad, said that progressing Snowy 2.0 was a strategic business decision and the projected return on investment would enable the company to fund the project.

More details are available at Snowy Hydro.

Kidston pumped hydro to have more storage

Kidston pumped hydro to have more storage

Genex TFS Opimisation General Arrangement

In an ASX announcement Genex Power reported on its Technical Feasibility Optimisation which upgrades the storage from 6 to 8 hours operation at 250 MW.  This is an additional 33% over the earlier indications that it would provide 6 hours operation at 250 MW.

Other conclusions from the optimisation are that variable speed pump-turbines will provide a better outcome than the originally proposed fixed speed pump-turbines, and that the upper reservoir can be provided by using the existing Wises pit rather than the proposed turkey’s nest dam.  Utilising the existing pit will reduce capital cost.

Modelling by Mott MacDonald showed that by using variable speed pump-turbines the start up time can be reduced to less than 30 seconds.

The TFS optimisation concluded that the project cost, including contingency, is about $330million. The project also requires the construction of a 275 kV transmission line to connect to the existing infrastructure at Mt Fox.

Full details of the announcement is available at Genex


Snowy Hydro has a better solution than batteries

Snowy Hydro has a better solution than batteries

Talbingo dam above Tumut 3 pumped hydro power station

Snowy Hydro boss Paul Broad has been out and about talking up the merits of pumped hydro over chemical battery storage such as the much touted Tesla installation in South Australia.  According to AFR, Snowy Hydro has been crunching the numbers and reveals that the cost of Snowy 2.0 and transmission lines would add $127 per year to the average household electricity bill by 2027.  Snowy Hydro says that providing the same storage using batteries would add a staggering $4000.00 per year to the average bill.

Its hard to believe that such numbers could be true.

The shear magnitude of the snowy 2.0 project gives some credibility to the notion that pumped hydro could be cheaper for large storage.  A characteristic of pumped hydro is that the magnitude of energy stored is related to the water volume, and for a given power station size, the water volume can often be increased at low marginal cost, and so per megawatt-hour the cost can fall dramatically.  In the case of the Cultana project costed at about 1/3 the cost of equivalent batteries for the same energy storage, the storage component could be increased by increasing the size of the upper turkeys nest dam.  The dam cost portion of the project is quite low at less than 10% of project cost.  This chart taken from the Cultana Knowledge Sharing Report shows that increasing hours of storage has a low impact on overall project cost and shows significant reduction in cost per unit of storage.

Storage costs of Cultana project
Storage costs of Cultana project

In the case of the Snowy Hydro project, because the dams to be used, Talbingo and Tantangara, are both existing the storage element of the project is already provided, and the costs will vary with the nameplate capacity of the project.  And because the dams can store an enormous amount of energy, the per unit costs is expected to be quite low.

Snowy Hydro is not releasing much detail about the project, but based on rudimentary information about the elevation difference between the two dams and a generating efficiency of around 85% the energy storage potential can be estimated. Tantangara stores 254 gigalitres which is 87 times larger than the Cultana project.  Talbingo stores 920 megalitres of water and is about 600m below Tantanagara — this 600m of head is more than double that available at Cultana. Assuming that only half the capacity of the smaller of the two dams is available for the pumped hydro operation, that is about 43 times more volume and double the head for about 80 times the energy available at Cultana.  Cultana stores about 1.7 gigawatt-hours of energy, and that would suggest Snowy 2.0 can store about 136 gigawatt hours of energy.

Compare this to the entire world’s production of lithium batteries of about 35 gigawatt-hours per annum — this would mean that to provide the same storage capacity in lithium batteries would require the next 4 years world production of lithium batteries to be dedicated solely to this project (or assuming Tesla’s new battery gigifactory does come on line fully by next year, it may mean about three year’s production.)  Its clearly not credible that batteries could offer a high penetration of grid scale storage any time soon and gives credence to the idea that large scale storage is better provided by pumped hydro than batteries.

The idea that batteries could ever add $4000 to the average electricity bill though is quite bizarre. For small scale storage batteries have a clear advantage and can be deployed very quickly.  When used behind the meter they are already economical and any tendency for power prices to rise will encourage the use of storage in this manner, and so the possibility of prices rising to the stratospheric levels suggested by Broad is implausible.

You can read the full Snowy Hydro story in AFR here.