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Three sites shortlisted for new Tasmanian pumped hydro

Located at Lake Cethana and Lake Rowallan in Tasmania’s north west, and near the Tribute Power Station in the state’s west, the sites will now be investigated further with the goal of having a preferred location operational by the time new interconnection to mainland Australia comes online.

In 2017, ARENA provided $2.5 million funding for feasibility studies into the Battery of the Nation proposal to create 2.5 GW of energy storage, including an initial $300,000 to explore possible pumped hydro sites.

The Tarraleah hydropower station in Tasmania. Image: Hydro Tasmania

From approximately 2000 locations assessed, 30 possible sites were initially shortlisted and 14 priority locations were announced in June last year. The 14 priority locations in total yielded 4800 MW of pumped hydro capacity, but Hydro Tasmania have now whittled that shortlist down to three locations with the most potential.

The next stage will undertake feasibility studies to assess the suitability of each of the three preferred locations and engage with local communities.

The three shortlisted locations offer different volumes of storage capacity. Lake Cethana could provide 12 hours of capacity, or Lake Rowallan 24 hours. According to Hydro Tasmania, both would involve the construction of new upper reservoirs.

The third shortlisted site near the existing Tribute Power Station could deliver 31 hours of storage, with a new connection established between existing reservoirs at Lake Plimsoll and Lake Murchison.

As all three of the possible locations involve off-river pumped hydro, none would require any new dams to be built.

Tasmanian Energy Minister Guy Barnett also announced $30 million to progress feasibility around one of the pumped hydro locations to fasttrack its development so the first pumped hydro plant could be operational by 2025, when the Marinus Link could be completed and commissioned.

Hydro Tasmania CEO Steve Davy said he was excited by the three prospective locations for new pumped hydro development.

“This puts Hydro Tasmania in a great position to select one strong development opportunity that can be ready for more interconnection. We will be working closely with key stakeholders and local communities during this next period of investigations,” Steve Davy said.

The Battery of the Nation – which also includes feasibility work to redevelop the existing Tarraleah hydro scheme – would aim to expand Tasmania’s role in the National Electricity Market, and unlock investment in wind power, therefore allowing Tasmania to export electricity to the mainland. In a white paper released in December, Hydro Tasmania flagged there was already 400MW of dispatchable capacity available from demand side resources.

All of this will depend on additional interconnection capacity, as BassLink is already at capacity.

In February, ARENA and TasNetworks released the initial feasibility study which found that a second interconnector – proposed to be named the ‘Marinus Link’ – could become commercially viable by the early 2030s, or as soon as the mid 2020s, depending on when ageing coal generators are retired.

The final feasibility study report for the second Bass Strait interconnector is due at the end of the year.

Following the release of the initial report, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced $56 million to fast-track the Marinus Link, which has received support from both major political parties ahead of the upcoming election.

Cultana Pumped Hydro Energy Storage Project – Phase 2

Snowy 2.0 gets green light

Early works can now start within a week after Prime Minister Morrison announced in Tumut in southern NSW this week the Australian Government will contribute $1.38 billion in equity.

According to the ARENA-funded feasibility study completed last year, the total cost of the project has been estimated at approximately $3.8 to $4.5 billion.

Snowy Hydro will finance the balance through internal cash flow and debt financing.

Snowy Hydro’s Board approved the project on December 12 last year, but the project needed approval from the Australian Government as Snowy Hydro’s sole shareholder. This followed the buy out shareholdings of NSW and Victoria last year.

Snowy 2.0 will be one of the world’s largest pumped hydro plants once completed.

Pumped hydro works by pumping water back up hill into an upper reservoir when electricity is cheap – usually at night – and storing it until demand stars to peak.

Snowy 2.0 will expand the capacity of the existing Snowy Hydro Scheme by 2 GW, delivering 175 hours of storage capable of powering 500,000 homes during peak.

As the largest renewable energy project in Australia, it is estimated Snowy 2.0 will create up to 2400 jobs during construction and will support 5000 direct and indirect jobs across the Snowy Mountains region.

Snowy Hydro’s CEO Paul Broad said the project would be operational in late 2024.

Will pumped hydro unlock the transition to renewables?

With Snowy 2.0 officially signed off by its board this week, Tasmania’s ‘Battery of the Nation’ making progress and the NSW Government announcing its pumped hydro roadmap, all signs point towards the technology underpinning Australia’s renewable energy transition.

The resurgence of interest in hydroelectricity marks a back to the future moment for Australia’s energy generation.

Since Tasmania’s Waddamana A hydropower plant supplied Australia’s first transmitted electricity in 1916, other states took a different path. In 1921, the first sod was turned at the site of Gippsland’s Loy Yang A brown coal power station, which was sending 75 MW of electricity towards Melbourne. Other mainland states also took advantage of plentiful supplies of coal.

Now, in the search for more low emissions sources of electricity generation, hydroelectricity is making a comeback in a big way.

Unlike hydro plants of the past, the new generation are embracing pumped hydro technology. Using excess renewable energy at periods of low demand, water is pumped uphill to be stored in a reservoir that functions like a ‘natural battery’. When energy demand and prices rise, the water is released to power a turbine to create electricity.

Compared with other storage options available today – like grid scale batteries that are most cost effective for short periods – pumped hydro can produce large amounts of electricity over a long duration. While there are only a few pumped hydro systems operating in Australia today, almost all of energy storage capacity in the USA is supplied by pumped hydro.

And plans are in place to dramatically increase Australia’s pumped hydro capacity as more renewables come online and the need for storage grows.

This week, the board of Snowy Hydro approved the “Snowy 2.0” plan to add 2,000 MW of new renewable pumped hydro capacity to the iconic Snowy Hydro Scheme.

Located between Sydney and Melbourne in the Snowy Mountains, the proposed expansion will bolster the National Electricity Market (NEM) with 175 operating hours of storage.

In a statement released after the meeting, Snowy’s board said that “After almost two years of rigorous due diligence on every aspect of the Project, including detailed financial analysis and ongoing geotechnical drilling, the Board is confident Snowy 2.0 is a strong investment for the Company.”

Snowy 2.0 will now need to be approved by the Federal Government, as the sole shareholder of Snowy Hydro after the Commonwealth bought out NSW and Victoria.

Federal Minister for Energy Angus Taylor has now said the government will now consider Snowy 2.0 on their merits.

For Tasmania, hydroelectricity has never gone away. The technology first revolutionised industry in the 1920s before growing to today supply more than 90 per cent of the state’s electricity requirements. Now work is underway to scope whether the island state could become the ‘battery of the nation’, supplying storage for the NEM as renewables take over from aging coal plants.

ARENA funding is supporting the studies, including the scoping of potential new pumped hydro locations. As part of the project, Hydro Tasmania has found 14 locations for new pumped hydro storage, with a total generation capacity of 4800 MW. The shortlisted locations are being refined further to meet the target of 2500 MW set out in the Battery of the Nation plan.

This week, the Tasmanian Government – with Minister Taylor – put out a white paper with analysis from Hydro Tasmania that outlined how the proposed second interconnector across the Bass Strait would unlock new renewable energy generation.

At present, Tasmania exports electricity to the mainland at Basslink’s capacity.

Hydro Tasmania’s analysis also indicated that 400 MW of “latent dispatchable capacity” in the system could be unlocked with no new investment required, with more interconnection and the right market signals.

More capacity could also be found by upgrading existing hydro assets at Gordon and Tarraleah.

New South Wales is now looking to build on Tasmania’s success, releasing a plan to “supercharge nature’s battery” 24 potential pumped hydro sites shortlisted for development. With 7000 MW of capacity, the NSW Energy Minister Don Harwin said the projects could supply 50 per cent of the state’s peak demand on the hottest summer days.

The Minister said the “roadmap will drive investment to ensure our energy system in NSW is robust and reliable into the future, better for our environment and importantly – cheaper for households and businesses.”

In late October, ARENA announced funding for Origin Energy to scope the feasibility of almost doubling the capacity of its existing Shoalhaven pumped hydro power station in the NSW Southern Highlands which was built back in 1977. If the project proceeds, Origin’s Shoalhaven plant could provide power to 80,000 homes.

Based on the events of the week, it is a safe bet that pumped hydro will play an important role in Australia’s transition to renewables.

Pumped hydro power station aims to double capacity

One of Australia’s few examples of pumped hydro in operation, the scheme has delivered clean, green electricity since it was commissioned in 1977. Today it plays a key role in managing water security for the people of New South Wales.

As well as moving drinking water across a nearby range, the scheme acts like a giant battery. It can pump water up to the elevated reservoirs when energy demand and prices are low, to be later released to create electricity when demand rises.

Unlike a traditional hydroelectric plant, the scheme can move water between the upper and lower reservoirs on-demand, and reuse water over and over again.

Cascading water through Kangaroo Valley and Bendeela hydroelectric plants, the Shoalhaven scheme today has a capacity of 240MW.

That could be set to grow, with ARENA today announcing $2 million in funding for Origin to assess the feasibility of increasing capacity to 475MW.

That would provide enough energy to power an additional 80,000 homes.

The ARENA funded study will build on pre-feasibility investigations undertaken earlier this year by Origin, which assessed three options to expand the scheme.

The full feasibility study will be based on their preferred option, which bypasses the Kangaroo Valley Power Station and pumps water from Lake Yarrunga to Fitzroy Falls Reservoir.

The project is aided by work to future proof the Shoalhaven scheme when it was originally constructed – meaning dams, pipeline easements and transmission connections are already in place.


Whether delivered by big batteries, solar, hydrogen or other technologies, there is no question that energy storage will be an integral part of the future energy network.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said Origin’s Shoalhaven pumped hydro power station is leading the way for other pumped hydro developments.

“For more than forty years, Shoalhaven’s pumped hydro scheme has delivered reliable renewable power to the NSW grid,” Darren Miller said.

Compared with other options on the table, pumped hydro makes a strong case. Limited only by the volume of the upper reservoir, pumped hydro can supply more energy for longer than the other available technologies.

“Expanding this scheme would provide more electricity over a shorter period. This would allow Origin to deliver capacity when it needed – when demand is high or renewable output is low,” Mr Miller said.

With solar and wind impacted by cloud cover, low winds, and the daily disruption of nighttime, this supply will be vital to bolster renewables as they do more of the heavy lifting.

Origin’s preferred option for the expansion

“The findings from the Shoalhaven study will help to plan the other hydro energy projects in the pipeline. There is so much potential in this technology, which can be seen in the work underway on Snowy 2.0, Hydro Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation initiatives, Kidston in Queensland, EnergyAustralia’s seawater pumped hydro project in Cultana and the Iron Duchess in South Australia,” he said.

“We know that storage, from both pumped hydro and batteries, will be key to transitioning to renewable energy in Australia,” Mr Miller said.

While the electricity system can cope with a lot more variable renewable energy in the system before storage is needed in significant quantities, pumped hydro is shaping up as an important storage technology – particularly for longer durations.

Origin executive general manager energy supply and operations Greg Jarvis welcomed ARENA’s support for the feasibility study into the proposed project.

“Shoalhaven is in the unique position of having much of the required infrastructure needed for expansion already in place,” Greg Jarvis said.

“This means it can be developed with less community and environmental impacts and in a shorter timeframe compared to developing the same amount of additional capacity as a greenfields project,” he said.

Unlike other storage projects being considered, Shoalhaven has been supplying electricity to the grid for more than 40 years, so it’s potential is well understood.

“This is a strong prospect for future expansion, because Shoalhaven can feed electricity into the grid in as little as three minutes, therefore improving reliability and complementing growing intermittent renewables in the system.

“We will now get on with important assessments and the necessary regulatory approvals that may allow us to double Shoalhaven’s generating capacity in the future,” Mr Jarvis said.

Shoalhaven pumped hydro could double in size

On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has today announced $2 million in funding for Origin Energy to assess the feasibility of expanding the Shoalhaven Pumped Hydro Scheme.

If the $6.8 million full feasibility study is successful, this proposal would nearly double the capacity from the existing 240MW to 475MW.

Located 150 kilometres south of Sydney in the NSW Southern Highlands, the Shoalhaven Pumped Hydro Storage Scheme currently consists of two pumped storage hydropower stations at Kangaroo Valley and Bendeela.

Earlier this year, Origin undertook pre-feasibility work on three potential design options for expanding the scheme.

ARENA’s funding will go towards a full feasibility study based on the preferred option, which involves bypassing the Kangaroo Valley Power Station and instead pumping water from Lake Yarrunga to Fitzroy Falls Reservoir.

The option includes a 235 MW underground power station, taking advantage of the longer water head available, resulting in a higher output and efficiency.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the proposed expansion would help provide large-scale storage and would inform other pumped hydro developments.

“For more than forty years, Shoalhaven’s pumped hydro scheme has been delivering reliable renewable power to the NSW grid. When it was built in 1977, Shoalhaven was future proofed to allow for more capacity to be added later on, which should reduce the cost and environmental impact of this project.

“The potential expansion of this scheme would provide more electricity over a shorter period so Origin can deliver capacity when needed – when demand is high or when renewable output is low,” he said.

“The findings of this study at Shoalhaven will help provide key understandings that can be applied to other hydro energy projects ARENA has supported such as Snowy 2.0, Hydro Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation initiatives, Kidston in Queensland, Cultana and the Iron Duchess in South Australia,” he said.

“We know that storage technologies – both pumped hydro and batteries – will be key to the transition to renewable energy in Australia, which is why we’re supporting projects such as this that will help deliver secure and reliable electricity,” Mr Miller said.

Origin executive general manager energy supply and operations Greg Jarvis said, “We welcome ARENA’s support of a feasibility assessment into the expansion of the Shoalhaven pumped hydro scheme.

“Shoalhaven is in the unique position of having much of the required infrastructure needed for expansion already in place. This means it can be developed with less community and environmental impacts and in a shorter timeframe compared to developing the same amount of additional capacity as a greenfields project.

“This is a strong prospect for future expansion, because Shoalhaven can feed electricity into the grid in as little as three minutes, therefore improving reliability and complementing growing intermittent renewables in the system.

“We will now get on with important assessments and the necessary regulatory approvals that may allow us to double Shoalhaven’s generating capacity in the future,” Mr Jarvis said.

A full feasibility study is expected to be completed in 2019.

This announcement does not form a part of WaterNSW’s current Renewable Energy Expression of Interest process.


ARENA media contact:

0410 724 227 |

Download this media release (PDF 122KB)

ANU pumped hydro researchers take out Eureka Prize

Led by Professor Andrew Blakers, Dr Matthew Stocks and Bin Lu from ANU’s Research School of Engineering, the team found 22,000 potential sites for cost effective pumped hydro across Australia.

The ARENA-supported project demonstrated that Australia could transition to a secure and cheap electricity grid powered by 100 per cent renewable energy.

The full report is available here.

Middleback Ranges Pumped Hydro Energy Storage Project Pre-feasibility Study

Origin Energy Shoalhaven Pumped Hydro Expansion Opportunity Feasibility Study

Massive expansion planned for iconic hydro plant

Sitting on the bank of the Nive River, Tarraleah is the oldest of the network of 12 hydro plants that make up the Derwent hydropower scheme.

Hydropower is Australia’s oldest source of renewable energy, currently supplying more than 90 per cent of Tasmania’s electricity needs.

With support from ARENA, Tasmania is setting its sights on becoming the “Battery of the Nation” by exploring the potential to build 2500MW of new pumped hydro, expanding existing hydro assets, expanding the state’s wind generation and improving interconnection with the mainland NEM.

Launching the project last year, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Premier Will Hodgman set the goal of doubling Tasmania’s renewable energy output to power 500,000 extra homes.

ARENA this week announced that it will provide up to $2.5 million in additional funding for Hydro Tasmania to complete feasibility studies into the proposed redevelopment of the Tarraleah power scheme.

Photo: Hydro Tas

The expansion will more than double the capacity from 104MW to 220MW and include 20 hours of storage per cycle.

Since launching in 1914, Tasmania’s state-owned hydro electricity provider – under a number of names – has built a network of 30 power stations.

Tarraleah sits in the upper section of the Derwent scheme, releasing water from large lakes when there is demand for the plant’s electricity. The upper lakes are fed by the Nive and Derwent Rivers, providing a dependable supply of water to drive Tarraleah’s six pelton turbines.

The Derwent scheme. Image: Hydro Tas

The plant discharges into Lake Liapootah, which then cascades water through a series of downstream power stations in the lower section of the Derwent scheme.

Image: Hydro Tas

Taralleah’s electricity could one day power homes across Bass Strait, according to a recent report funded by ARENA as part of feasibility studies for the “Battery of the Nation” project.

Exporting energy to the NEM will require additional interconnection, so ARENA is also jointly funding the development of a business case for a second link across Bass Strait with Tasmania’s network provider TasNetworks.

Hydro Tasmania CEO Steve Davy is optimistic that their plants can deliver a flexible a stable supply of energy to compliment growth in solar and wind.

He said while pumped hydro and wind power attract most of the attention, getting more electricity from existing hydropower assets would also be crucial.

“We can start by finding another 116 MW from Tarraleah. This upgrade will also transform Tarraleah into Tasmania’s first truly 21st century hydropower station – adding stability and flexibility to Australia’s future clean energy market,” Steve Davy said.

Hydro Tasmania believe Tarraleah’s redevelopment could give the plant another 80 years of life.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said Tasmania’s hydro resources could have a big role to play as Australia’s energy market transforms over the coming decades.

“This work helps us understand the opportunities for Tasmania’s renewable generators to make a larger contribution to the National Electricity Market,” he said.

“We know that the energy market will transform in coming decades as renewables supply more of our electricity, and rooftop solar and residential batteries make up a bigger part of the system.

“The studies underway in Tasmania will help us map out the best options to maximise the flexibility of the system and deliver value for consumers and the market,” he said.