Victoria plan to use old mines for pumped hydro heads to next stage

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Victoria government backed plan to convert disused Bendigo mineshafts into pumped hydro energy storage will undergo full feasibility studies.

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A Victoria government-backed plan to convert some of the state’s abandoned gold mine shafts into pumped hydro energy resources will undergo full feasibility studies, after initial investigations returned promising results.

State energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio said on Tuesday that a pre-feasibility study confirmed it was both technically and economically feasible to use pumped hydro to store renewable energy in the disused mines in Bendigo – a former gold mining hub.

The minister said the study developed a pumped hydro project concept with a generation capacity of 30MW, and the ability to store 6 hours or 180MWh of energy.

The idea is part of an ongoing trend to tap into old mining assets for pumped hydro storage, or even wind and battery storage.

In Queensland, Genex is using the old Kidston gold mine for a large solar and pumped hydro facility, while in South Australia, Sanjeev Gupta is looking to use an old iron ore mine to provide pumped hydro for his grand plans to power the local steel works with solar.

The study determined there was a strong prospect for cost-effective energy storage in regional Victoria, which could both boost the reliability of the local power grid, and integrate higher levels of renewables.

The project, which has so far been co-funded by the City of Greater Bendigo, could also help that city achieve its goal of becoming a net exporter of renewable energy.

The next step for the project, said the minister, was to seek expressions of interest from industry and other parties over the next eight weeks to progress the concept into a full feasibility study.

Among other things, that study would need to assess issues such as the accuracy of the 3D modelling of the mine shafts and rock stability, D’Ambrosio said.

“This is an exciting next step in potentially storing significant renewable energy capacity – which can be dispatched to the grid at any time as needed,” D’Ambrosio said in a statement.

“There is enormous potential for Bendigo’s empty mineshafts to store dispatchable, renewable energy and support generation into the grid.”

Indeed, according to recent ANU research, that “enormous potential” for pumped hydro extends all around Australia.

That study, published in the second half of last year, identified we have identified 22,000 potential pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) sites across all states and territories of Australia – enough to balance the grid with any amount of solar and wind power, all the way up to 100 per cent.

For the Bendigo project, the state government says information sessions will be held in Melbourne and Bendigo to give interested parties further details.

“We are encouraging industry to take the concept through to the next stage,” D’Ambrosio said.

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6 Comments
  1. phillyc 11 months ago

    All these potential projects add up. 30MW / 180MWh here and over there will make GWs of dispatchable power and many hours of storage. Imagine implementing just 5% of those 22,000 potential sites if they were of this potential project scale! Enough to power the NEM by themselves. Albeit for less than a day.

    • kevin berry 11 months ago

      how about using the north south pipeline its already built only requiring earth works and a little plumbing lets try and get some return on the almost 1 billion dollars spent on this under used infastructure

  2. Brunel 11 months ago

    If pumped hydro is cheaper, why install chemical batteries?

    • EdBCN 11 months ago

      Because chemical batteries can be located anywhere, near loads and generators, which reduces grid costs; they can be built in small, easy-to-finance increments; they can be deployed in a matter of months, not years; they can respond faster than turbines; and they aren’t dependent on geography.

      • Brunel 11 months ago

        Well if the chemical battery is taxpayer funded, we should be told how much it cost.

  3. Glenne Drover 11 months ago

    I wonder what happened to the idea of using the Morwell open cut brown coal mine for pumped storage? It would be much much bigger and the powerlines are right next door.

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