Plan to convert SA mine to pumped hydro plant

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The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has committed $500,000 to GFG Alliance for a feasibility study investigating whether a disused mine site in the South Middleback Ranges, near Whyalla, SA, can be converted into a pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) plant.

The $1.7 million project will investigate if the existing mine pit of ‘Iron Duchess North’ could be utilised as a lower reservoir for a PHES plant, creating an estimated capacity of 90MW and 390MWh of storage.

Pumped hydro works by pumping water uphill between two connected reservoirs when electricity is cheap and abundant, and running water downhill to power turbines when electricity is needed.

The first stage of feasibility is expected to be completed by late 2018, including high level designs, engineering studies, network studies, geotechnical investigation, market modelling and commercial evaluation.

If successful, the $170 million Middleback Ranges PHES plant could be built by 2022.

In mid-February 2018, the South Australian Government announced that it is committing $500,000 to the feasibility study.

ARENA CEO, Ivor Frischknecht, said the feasibility study was the first stage in assessing possible sites to store South Australia’s growing renewable energy generation.

“South Australia has ideal wind and solar resources to support large-scale renewable generation, so we will need energy storage options to harness and store this capacity so it is available at all times.

“We are excited to explore the potential of old mining assets being turned into renewable energy storage which can provide dispatchable and reliable power,” Mr Frischknecht said.

ARENA is also providing funding to support the Kidston hybrid solar and PHES project in a mine in Queensland, alongside feasibility studies into other pumped hydro across Australia, including Snowy 2.0, Hydro Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation projects and EnergyAustralia’s proposed seawater PHES project at Cultana, South Australia.

Geoff Titus, Chief Executive Officer, SIMEC ZEN Energy, said the project would offer many benefits for the company and residents.

“We thank ARENA for its support to this important project. This unique pumped hydro storage project is a great opportunity for SIMEC ZEN Energy (part of GFG Alliance) to obtain real world insights and apply the learnings to offer expert energy contracting solutions to customers seeking secure, affordable and low emission energy to transition through their current energy challenges.

“We look forward to working with Liberty Onesteel in the first instance on the benefits this project will provide, and then establishing partnerships with other large energy users across Australia seeking a new way of contracting energy for their long term success.” 

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