Global energy giant GE has signed an agreement to co-develop a proposed 500MW pumped hydro storage project at Dungowan Dam in the New England region of New South Wales.
Dungowan forms part of the massive 4,000MW renewables and storage hub being put together by Walcha Energy – in what would be the biggest integrated renewables and storage project in Australia and likely a major part of the new New England renewable energy zone proposed by the NSW state government on Friday.
GE Renewable Energy Hydro Solutions has agreed to provide technical and commercial support to help accelerate the development of Dungowan pumped hydro storage power plant, which would have between six to eight hours of strorage.
“Dungowan PHES will help facilitate new wind and solar projects and provide firming and grid support services at a critical point on the Australian National Electricity Market,”said Simon Currie, the managing director at Energy Estate, one of partners in Walcha Energy.
“The project represents a unique opportunity to tap into a high-head site, in close proximity to an existing reservoir. It is strategically located between retiring coal capacity to the south and emerging wind and solar capacity to the east, west and north.”
The Walcha project already includes defined projects such as the 700MW Winterbourne wind farm (in which global wind giant Vestas has bought a majority stake), the 700MW Salisbury solar farm and the 700MW Ruby Hills wind farm, and aims to unite up to 4,000MW of capacity around the Uralla Renewable Energy Hub.
Currie says the Dungowan pumped hydro storage power plant would plan a critical role in ensuring that new wind and solar generation can be reliably and safely fed into the grid.
It is the biggest integrated renewables and storage project proposed for the National Electricity Market and – like the broader New England REZ – is pitched at the NSW grid which will see much of its coal fired generation capacity retiring in the coming decade – Liddell by 2023, Vales Point by around 2030, and Eraring by 2032. Bayswater and Mt Piper will follow after that.
The NSW government has already received a phenomenal response to its first REZ, located in the central west near Dubbo, where it called for 3GW of wind, solar and storage proposals and received expressions of interest for 27GW – nine times what it was searching for.
The New England REZ will seek 8GW of wind, solar and storage, and the unveiling last week suggests that the NSW state government is looking to fast-track the development of the zone, in line with the Australian Energy Market Operator’s Step Change scenario, which plots action to accommodate a serious attempt at meeting the Paris climate treaty’s goal of limiting average global warming to around 1.5°C.
Currie says the Walcha Energy project has the potential to provide up to 15 per cent of NSW’s power requirements. The Dungowan pumped hydro storage power plant would provide about 2 per cent, or the equivalent of roughly 125,000 households with electricity. The NSW Government has supported the development of the project under its Emerging Energy Program through funding for pre-investment studies.
Dungowan is one of a number of pumped hydro projects being proposed for the region, the others being a 400MW backed by UPC/AC Renewables, currently bidding for Infigen Energy and also behind a pumped hydro project in South Australia, and Ovens Mountain Pumped Hydro, which is teaming up with Alinta to look at a 600MW project.
There are also numerous smaller battery storage projects proposed for the region, many of which got funding to pursue feasibility studies under the state government’s Emerging Energy Program.