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Expansion of Shoalhaven Pumped Hydro Scheme

Photo of an Origin Energy worker in high-visibility clothing standing in a control room at the Shoalhaven hydro scheme. Image credit: Origin Energy

​​INVESTMENT PRIORITY: Delivering secure and reliable electricity

LEAD ORGANISATION: Origin Energy Eraring Pty Ltd

ARENA FUNDING: $2.0 million

TOTAL PROJECT COST: $6.8 million

LOCATION: Multiple sites, NSW

​​The focus of the Shoalhaven Pumped Hydro Expansion project is to increase the nation’s sources of dispatchable energy generation, such as pumped hydro, to keep the grid strong and stable.

The Shoalhaven pumped hydro scheme has been delivering electricity since it was commissioned in 1977. It acts like a giant battery, pumping water up to the elevated reservoirs when energy demand and prices are low, to be later released to create electricity when it is most needed. It is able to feed electricity into the grid in as little as three minutes, to either increase supply, improve reliability or smooth out variable renewables in the system.

This project is assessing the technical and commercial feasibility of expanding the Shoalhaven scheme, doubling the support it could provide. Increasing the capacity of the pumped hydro facility from 240 megawatts (MW) to 475 MW would provide enough additional energy to power 80,000 homes.

One unique element of the proposal is that Shoalhaven already has much of the required infrastructure needed for the expansion. The scheme was ‘future proofed’ when it was originally constructed to allow for more capacity to be added later on, with dams, pipeline easements and transmission connections already in place. This would help the expansion to be developed with lower community and environmental impact and in a shorter timeframe than an entirely new project with the same amount of additional capacity. The full feasibility study is expected to be completed in 2020.

HOW THIS PROJECT MAKES A DIFFERENCE

The ability of pumped hydro to store energy and dispatch it in minutes makes the Shoalhaven scheme a vital part of Australia’s transition to renewable energy. The findings from this project will lead the way for other pumped hydro developments to determine how they can best help to deliver secure and reliable electricity.