Energy explained: Pumped Hydro

3 min

Did you recently join us on AEMO’s East Coast road trip to get an inside look at a New South Wales hydro power station? We have heard loud and clear that many of you wanted to know more about hydro, in particular pumped hydro.

Did you know that pumped hydro is a form of technology that has been around for almost a century, and accounts for around 95% of large scale energy storage globally? Australia’s first pumped hydro facility was built in the 1970s in New South Wales. 

Here’s how it works

Pumped hydro takes a page out of the recycling book by reusing water to create energy.

Energy is generated at a hydro plant when water runs down from the upper reservoir to a lower pool, usually a dam, and through a set of turbines that generate energy. The energy created is then sold to the market.

Pumped hydro takes it a step further and pumps that water back up to the upper reservoir to be stored and reused again.

As pumping water to the upper reservoir uses a fair amount of electricity, the water is typically pumped upwards into the upper reservoir at periods when wholesale energy prices are low. These periods usually coincide with times when grid demand is low and there is more than enough energy available for the grid.

Then in periods of high demand, the water from the upper reservoir is released into the lower reservoir. This ensures that, despite pumped hydro actually using energy to run, it is still economic.

Australia has three existing pumped hydro power stations including Wivenhoe in Queensland, Tumut Hydroelectric power station and Shoalhaven, both in New South Wales. And there are more on the cards for South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, and New South Wales.

More pumped hydro stations will mean a significant increase in Australia’s generation capacity, providing a source of energy that can be quickly and easily dispatched and relied upon.

Well, there you have it, a snapshot of one of the many energy resources used in Australia!

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