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Nuclear advocate asks if off-river pumped hydro could finally allow 100% renewables in Australia?


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Help! My opinion seems to be changing and I don't like it! I'm a fan of nuclear power for Australia, but I'm starting to have second thoughts. Not because of any over-hyped problems with nuclear - but because of how cheap Wind and Solar Plants (WASPS) are becoming.

100% renewable papers used to assume all this extra electricity storage from pumped hydro acting as big 'batteries'. But on-river pumped hydro is already over-used, doesn't have enough estimated resource to backup today's grids, and has serious ecological concerns with these dams destroying our last fisheries and intact ecosystems. Mark Jacobson infamously over-assumed the amount of on-river pumped hydro capacity in America by 100 fold! America's National Academy of Sciences spanked him for it! https://www.pnas.org/content/114/26/6722.full
Shellenberger had a real rant about Jacobson's lies. https://tinyurl.com/y3mq8fqh

BUT WHAT ABOUT OFF-RIVER PUMPED HYDRO 'BATTERIES'?
But what if we look at ANY hilly areas that might have the topography to run a pumped hydro dam - but are just not on a river? We can build the dam anyway. We could pump the water in from a nearby river. We could cover the dam in plastic to reduce evaporation by 90% and sometimes allow local rainfall to top up the dam. This increases the world's potential pumped-hydro several orders of magnitude. Indeed, satellite mapping for these sites has come up with 300 TIMES the grid storage required to take Australia 100% renewable. The cost? Pumped hydro = 1 GW storage capacity for 14 hours at $1.8 billion. https://tinyurl.com/yddkfp7r The global study concluded there was 100 TIMES the required topography - although had the huge disclaimer that this was from satellite data and while they had excluded urban areas, had not checked the other areas for land tenure and local environmental concerns. But even if you rule out 90% of the sites, there's still TEN TIMES the available resource if you want to develop it. http://re100.eng.anu.edu.au/global/index.php

Now, the punchline. Does the lower costs of WASPS + high availability of off-river pumped hydro sites mean we finally have an understanding of what a WASPS grid might look like? We have to build enough WASPS to both run the country and pump all that water uphill everyday for the night time grid. What happens in Northern Europe and America where ponds and dams freeze during winter? Would they build nukes, or import power from regions that don't freeze? But down here in Australia our dams don't freeze. So are WASPS so cheap now that we could really do it, and go mostly renewable? This paper from the CSIRO seems to say so - at least 90% renewable here in Australia. https://tinyurl.com/y8dyaxkg

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