Tasmanian Times


Five gifs that explain how pumped hydro actually works

People have used moving water to create energy for thousands of years. Today, pumped hydro is the most common form of grid-connected energy storage in the world.

This technology is in the spotlight because it pairs so well with solar and wind renewable energy. During the day, when solar panels and wind farms may be generating their highest level of energy, people don’t need really need much electricity. Unless it is stored somewhere the energy is lost.

Read more: Snowy hydro scheme will be left high and dry unless we look after the mountains

Pumped hydro can cheaply and easily store the excess energy, releasing it again at night when demand rises.

Here’s how it all works:

How it works

Put as simply as possible, it involves pumping water to a reservoir at the top of a hill when energy is in plentiful supply, then letting it flow back down through a turbine to generate electricity when demand increases …


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  1. chrish618

    March 26, 2019 at 8:48 am

    Pumped-hydro can be an effective means of energy storage.
    Pumped hydro does not generate energy, it’s purpose is to store energy that’s fed into it.
    Pumped hydro is not necessarily clean and green. If coal energy is fed into it, then coal energy comes out.
    The energy loss for pumping is accepted as approximately 20% of what goes in.
    The profitability of pumped-hydro hinges on being able to sell the released energy competitively at peak times.
    A pumped-hydro facility has to compete in the national market like any other electricity generator.
    Two big factors determining viability are SCALE and LOCATION.
    Snowy 2 and the Tasmanian proposed scheme are very large projects designed to mesh in with the national grid.
    Smaller energy storage facilities (including batteries & smaller pumped-hydro) mesh in much better with small scale distributed generators.
    For the Tasmanian scheme to be viable it would need to sell into the market to at lest cover it’s estimated $5 billion set up.
    The business case for 10 relies on a very large investment of government money to enable it to be viable.
    On the ground, any pumped hydro facility in Tasmania would require the building of a pumping station plus a coffer dam below existing dams – large enough to store water for 24 hour cycle.
    For the foreseeable future the main user of large scale pumped-hydro would be the coal generators, using the facility to store surplus to use during peak times.

  2. max

    March 13, 2019 at 10:19 am

    Pumped hydro sounds good but is it? Billions of dollars are required to implement the plans for it and who will pay for it? Under Morison’s plans the tax payers will foot the bill. As neo libelist policies of selling the farm have left us with privately owned power utilities, will these privately owned power utilities pay for the use of the billions of dollars of infrastructure required to build Morrison’s pie in the sky solution for reliable power? For a start any power company using the pumped hydro system will lose 20% of their power. The next problem for pumped hydro is climate change and the looming El Nino, will the dams run dry? Even if the Snowy Mountain Scheme was only used as a battery, in a drought and lack of rain there will still be evaporation.
    The cost of solar panels are tumbling and so are batteries and there is a trend to go off grid. If too many people go of grid then all power utilities will become uneconomical, this is why Morrison’s coal fired power station dreams are just that. Coal fired power stations can only operate under constant load, any variation to the load and they become uneconomical. When the wind blows and the sun shines, thermal power stations are not cost effective. How any elected government can operate in complete ignorance of the realities and practicability of life is beyond belief.
    All utilities should be owned by the people. To think that utilities can be operated by private companies whose bottom line is profit and not reliability is why we are now in this untenable situation.

  3. Russell

    March 13, 2019 at 10:16 am

    There are some really weird and false assertions made in this article.

    Firstly it should be said that is IMPOSSIBLE to create more energy than you use to create it. Water costs nothing and uses zero energy to flow downhill, but pumping it uphill requires ENORMOUS amounts of energy and costs heaps to do so. Just ask any farmer or tall building designer.

    The assertion that “During the day, when solar panels and wind farms may be generating their highest level of energy, people don’t need really need much electricity” is also false as all these people go to work or whatever during the day and use more electricity than they would by staying at home with the kids or in the garden. During the day all the big businesses and factories are running full throttle chewing up whatever the grid can handle, and a lot of it is just wasted in complete inefficiencies. Wind farms also work 24 hours a day, depending on the wind, NOT whether it is day or night.

    Another elephant in the room is the dwindling nation-wide storages in existing dams, and how climate change is causing them to become less and less reliable each year while at the same time more and more is extracted by unsustainable farming and mining to the complete detriment of the people, towns and environment downstream.

    For the life of me I can’t understand why there aren’t compulsory conditions set to install solar panels on every single new or renovated building so that they can contirbute to the energy supply and demand during the day, thus leaving the existing power stations to take up the slack during times of stress loads and during the night when demand is less because most people and their homes are pretty much asleep.

    If all Tasmanian homes had just moderate grid-connected solar systems it would be enough to replace Hazelwood or Liddell coal power stations during the day. Just imagine if that was extended to Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Darwin or Adelaide, or ANY and EVERY town for that matter?

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