A massive new pumped hydro energy storage project, proposed for Northern NSW’s New England region, has received a boost after securing federal government funding to complete a feasibility study.
The Oven Mountain project proposes to build a 600MW/7,200MWh pumped hydro facility between Armidale and Kempsey, and the feasibility study will examine how the project may lead to further investment in additional wind and solar projects in the region as part of a wider Renewable Energy Zone.
The “off-river” project proposes to utilise two naturally occurring granite basins in the region to establish reservoirs, with an expected height difference between the two reservoirs of around 600 metres and located around 2.5 kilometres apart.
The project would be able to provide up to 12 hours of storage at full capacity.
The project will operate as a “closed system”, meaning that water will only be pumped between the two reservoirs and the project would not be reliant on the damming or redirection of rivers to supply the reservoirs.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has committed $951,000 to support the completion of the feasibility study, recognising its potential role in a wider Renewable Energy Zone proposed for the New England Region.
In March, NSW energy minister Matt Kean announced that a New England Renewable Energy Zone would feature as part of the state’s Net Zero plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and could unlock as much as 5,500MW of new wind and solar generation capacity with the support of storage and transmission infrastructure.
The $2.2 million project is being undertaken in partnership with Alinta Energy, and will engage consultants Lloyd’s Register, EY and SMEC, as well as working with AEMO and Transgrid to develop the proposal.
The project has also received funding support under the NSW government’s Emerging Energy Program.
“Pumped hydro projects like Oven Mountain can play a key role in the provision of firming up and balancing the grid as increased levels of variable renewable energy generation such as wind and solar come online,” ARENA CEO Darren Miller said.
“Renewable Energy Zones like New England are sunny and windy areas with natural renewable energy resources, but they may be in weak areas of the grid. Pumped hydro can provide system security services like frequency and voltage support and it can provide bulk energy storage to help meet the evening peak.”
Director of the Oven Mountain Pumped Storage Dr Jeremy Moon said that there was a strong potential for the project to support the development of additional large-scale renewable energy projects, by supporting the establishment of the New England Renewable Energy Zone.
“Pumped hydro technology evolution can support Australia’s generation transition. With its natural high hydrological head over a distance of around two kilometres, the Oven Mountain site allows for highly responsive synchronous machines to provide grid stability services that have traditionally been provided by fossil fuel generation,” Dr Moon said.
“We are excited for the opportunity to work with ARENA to demonstrate how pumped hydro can provide large scale storage and support the New England Renewable Energy Zone, networks, system security and increasing levels oflow cost, dispatchable power.”
The project is being proposed in the heart of the New England electorate, which is represented in federal parliament by Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce.