Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Keeping All the Lights On

By Ian Lowe

A 100% renewable energy system using pumped hydro can store enough power for peak demand at a competitive price to fossil fuels.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

A new study by researchers at the Australian National University has found that pumped hydroelectricity is the key to a cost-effective power system providing 100% renewable energy for the so-called national electricity market, which includes Queensland, NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and the ACT. Prof Andrew Blakers and his team were funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to model the system using only technologies that are in large-scale commercial operation. This restricted the choice to solar photovoltaics (PV), wind and pumped hydro, leaving aside such options as solar thermal, battery storage and geothermal energy. The modelling showed that 50–80 pumped hydro systems, adding up to 15–20 GW of capacity, would provide enough storage to smooth out fluctuations in available wind and solar energy.

Most significantly, the study found that the cost of power from such a 100% renewable grid would be about $90/MWh based on current prices for those technologies. For comparison, the pooled price in the national electricity market now averages about $60/MWh, while it is estimated that a new black coal power station would produce electricity at a cost of about $80/MWh with no carbon price. Therefore, Blakers said, “a 100% renewable PV and wind system matches the price of a new fossil-fuel system”. That is very encouraging news, with evidence growing of...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.