Brown Mountain potential for pumped hydro power

Hydro energy pipes.
Hydro energy pipes.

Sites along the Brown Mountain escarpment have been earmarked as potential pumped hydro energy sites (PHES), according to an Australian National University report.

Researchers have identified about 22,000 potential sites across Australia for PHES that can be used to support a national electricity grid with 100 per cent renewable energy.

Lead researcher Professor Andrew Blakers said combining the short-term off-river PHES sites had a potential storage capacity of 67,000 Gigawatt-hours (GWh) – much more than the capacity required for a zero-emissions grid.

The report claims NSW has 200 times more PHES resources than that required to decarbonise the electricity supply within the state. The sites in the South East of the state are among about 8600 across NSW and the ACT and were found using algorithms with defined search criteria within a geographic information system (GIS) platform.

The platform was used to find detailed information, such as head, reservoir areas, and storage capacity. Other areas in the South East include Tantawangalo, Mount Darragh and Cathcart.

Malcolm Turnbull with Snowy Hydro chief Paul Broad at Talbingo, NSW. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Malcolm Turnbull with Snowy Hydro chief Paul Broad at Talbingo, NSW. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Professor Blakers said fast-tracking the development of a few of the best sites by 2022 could balance the grid when Liddell and other coal power stations close.

“Pumped hydro storage, including Snowy 2.0, can be developed fast enough to balance the grid with any quantity of variable wind and solar PV power generation, including 100 per cent renewable energy,” he said.

“We found so many good potential sites that only the best 0.1 per cent will be needed. We can afford to be choosy.”

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) provided $449,000 to support the ANU-led study.