The north’s future is electrifying: powering Asia with renewables  

Posted by Big Gav in , , ,

The Conversation has an article proposing an Asian supergrid supplied with renewable energy from Australia that reminded by a lot of the Grenatec proposal that has been floating around for a while now (but is still getting some press attention) - The north’s future is electrifying: powering Asia with renewables.

Imagine a project that could help Indonesia achieve energy security, dramatically cut energy poverty for hundreds of millions, catalyse renewable energy production in Assocation of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, cut regional carbon pollution, and transition Australia’s energy exports from risky fuels to renewable energy.

Sounds far-fetched? In fact, such a proposal has already been published in the international peer-reviewed literature. It takes several existing technologies already in widespread deployment, and joins them together in a new configuration on an unprecedented scale, in a region with enormous natural competitive advantage — north-western Australia.

Here’s the plan.

Take part (say 2,500 km2) of an existing cattle station somewhere near Lake Argyle and cover one third of it with solar panels on tracking arrays. Build a large reservoir upslope at least 300 metres above Lake Argyle, holding at least 1,000 gigalitres of water.

Build a 100 gigawatt power station that uses solar energy to pump water from the lake up to the upper reservoir. The water flows back down the hill through turbines at night, generating power to the grid 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Hundreds of “pumped hydro” schemes of this nature are already working well around the world, albeit not on this scale.

The “grid” in this case, would be an integrated south-east Asian supergrid, the spine of which would be a High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) cable running from northern Australia along the Indonesian archipelago and up into the Philippines, Malaysia and Indochina, and then eventually into China.

The capital cost of building such a power station, storage and HVDC link and extending it as far as Jakarta is estimated at around US$500 billion. This compares with Indonesia’s current projections that it needs to invest US$1,000 billion in conventional (coal and nuclear) power stations to meet its energy needs over the next 40 years.

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