Monday, 01 May 2017

Your View: Pumped hydro

I HAVE always been interested in the laws of physics and in regards to pumped hydro, especially when they propose to use seawater.

About 10 years ago I was at Tumut 3 power station, part of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme. They were pumping water from the bottom pond up to the top ponds where the water is stored before rushing downhill to the turbine to generate electricity.

I asked about the efficiency factor and was told, depending on the height, temperature and age of the turbines, it took 10 to 20 per cent more power to pump the water uphill then they gained from electricity when the water was running downhill.

In 1929-30 my father Bruce Butler was involved a federal government project. A professor of hydrology ran a feasibility study involving digging a channel from Yorkeys Crossing near Port Augusta to Lake Eyre and filling it with seawater. They wanted to know if it would affect the weather patterns in that area. My father was a Jackeroo on Murnpeowie Station and volunteered collecting data and samples. They set up galvanized water troughs and would mix a solution with the specific gravity of seawater. They would test the solution regularly and top up when required with the seawater solution. These experiments went on for several months and my father would write the readings down. Because my father and his friends had been such a help, the professor sent them a precis of his conclusions after he had presented his report to parliament. He concluded if they dug a channel 400 yards wide and 200 feet deep in places after about five years Lake Eyre (38 feet below sea level) would have a saline solution at least six times greater than sea water because of the high evaporation.

To consider pumped hydro near Port Augusta, they must think about the power usage required to pump the water uphill, and what to do with the high-saline seawater after. It’s not rocket science to come up with an answer, just sensible use of physics.

Malcolm Butler, Port Broughton

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