The NSW government has opened up a new program that will offer $50 million in grants to help fund early studies into what it hopes will be a 3GW pipeline of “shovel ready” pumped hydro projects in the state.
The $50 million Pumped Hydro Recoverable Grants Program is part of the NSW government’s Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap designed to support the switch from coal to a largely renewables-dominated grid over the next 10 to 15 years.
Key parts of that roadmap include the creation of renewable energy zones, and multiple gigawatts of wind and solar and storage projects. The pumped hydro grants are designed to help kick-start studies into the technology that will deliver longer term and even seasonal storage.
Pumped hydro is recognised as the most established form of long duration storage,” the government says.
“However, pumped hydro projects face long lead times with costly development activities taking up to four years to complete, with procurement and construction typically taking another four years.”
The program aims to establish a pipeline of up to 3 gigawatts of ‘shovel ready’ pumped hydro projects that can make competitive bids for long term energy services agreements (LTESAs) for long duration storage under the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Safeguard.
The NSW government is looking for projects that are at leat 30MW in size, have at least eight hours storage and can be deployed by 2029, around the time the next of coal fired power station closures is anticipated.
Australia has a limited number of pumped hydro projects, and before construction began on the Kidston pumped hydro project in north Queensland, none had been built for nearly 40 years. The federal government is also committed to the massive, but controversial, Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro project.
Pumped hydro facilities have been rarely used in recent years, but are expected to play a key role in a grid as the share of wind and solar overtakes coal and gas.
NSW has a number of pumped hydro projects on the drawing board, including the Ovens Mountain project backed by OMPS and Alinta and the Bells Mountain project being pursued by AGL.
EnergyAustralia is looking at a pumped hydro project using the Lake Lyell dam currently serving the Bayswater coal fired generator, Centennial Coal is looking at using the old Newstan colliery, while ATCO is looking at a facility near Bathurst.
A number of renewable energy developers are also pursuing pumped hydro projects linked to large wind and solar farms, including Walcha Energy at the Dungowan Dam near Tamworth and UPC at the New England project near Armidale.