Australia is studying plans to transform Lake Macquarie’s disused, underground coal mine into a pumped hydro facility – part of a wider effort to reuse retiring fossil fuel sites for renewable energy generation. The plan gives retired coal mines a chance at renewable re-birth.
Pumped storage hydroelectric power plants, which push water uphill at times of low demand and then release it downhill to drive turbines that generate electricity when needed, have huge capacity for energy storage and can help back up intermittent generation from wind and solar plants.
That would then supply an additional 600MW (megawatts) of renewable energy into the grid.
Centennial Coal, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the New South Wales Government will jointly fund a new technical feasibility study and $13m pilot trial.
Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said the trial could offer a blueprint for dozens of expiring mines that’ll be retired in coming decades, giving them a second life as clean and dispatchable sources of renewable energy and providing ongoing jobs for regional communities.
The site is attractive as a new venture for a renewable future due to its location and existing features. Not only would the cost be lower to repurpose an unused site, but the old coal mine has a reservoir, a grid connection and available water sources.
Taylor went on to say, “by repurposing old sites and taking advantage of the features at those facilities, we can bring more clean energy projects online that bring down emissions and deliver the secure and reliable power Australians need.”
“Additionally, there would be future employment opportunities in the construction and operation of a PHES scheme.”
ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the proposed retired coal mine is a 600 MW plant – and if feasible – would employ nearly 1000 people during construction and a further 50 people in ongoing operational roles.