Greener future

The proposed Strathalbyn compressed air energy storage facility is an example of a changing Australian energy market.
Where decades ago the nation’s power was generated mostly from coal and gas, with some hydroelectricity, in recent years there has been a growing focus on renewable energy and innovative solutions to improve its reliability.
The five megawatt Strathalbyn facility is essentially a demonstration site, with the capacity to store only 10 megawatt hours of energy – enough to power 4000 homes for two hours.
But the company behind the technology, Hydrostor, is already designing much larger versions, with storage capacities greater than 50 megawatts.
Unlike fossil fuels such as coal, renewable energy – including solar and wind power – presents several obstacles in terms of reliability.
And that’s where storage technology comes into its own.
When used on a much larger scale, systems like compressed air energy storage and pumped hydro storage have the potential to store excess energy from renewable sources when conditions are favorable, for use when they are not.
Both the State and Federal Governments’ investment in this technology is a good sign.
Despite the Federal Government’s pro-coal reputation, the move demonstrates a commitment at both levels of government to explore ways of creating a cleaner energy future.
Already home to the world’s biggest battery, and leading the nation in commercial electricity generation from renewable sources, Hydrostor’s investment in SA helps pave the way for the State to become a national leader in energy innovation.
Without the need for hilly topography – as is the case with pumped hydro storage – the technology is far less restricted by location, giving it the potential to be built anywhere around Australia.
Its use of underground infrastructure also makes disused underground mining sites ideal locations for the facilities, giving closed mines a new purpose.
Compressed air energy storage is not the be all and end all solution to Australia’s energy needs, but it may be a step towards creating a greener future

For the full report, see the print issue of The Courier.