Australian state prioritizes pumped hydro projects

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From pv magazine Australia

The New South Wales (NSW) government has identified six renewable energy projects, including three large-scale pumped hydro schemes and a trio of electricity transmission projects as high priority infrastructure projects that are essential to the state for economic reasons.

NSW Planning Minister Paul Scully announced that all six projects have now been declared Critical State Significant Infrastructure (CSSI) as “they are significant to the NSW economy, society and the environment.”

CSSI status means no third party can mount a legal appeal against the projects without the consent of the minister. The declaration also means the minister gives the project the green light once it has moved through the planning process.

“The substantive increase in renewable energy proposals signals trust from the wider industry in our government’s capacity to move projects through the planning system,” Scully said.

The projects include the 335 MW/2,680 MWh Lake Lyell pumped hydro project being developed by EnergyAustralia near Lithgow, and the 400 MW, eight-hour duration Muswellbrook pumped hydro project being developed by AGL in collaboration with Idemitsu Australia at Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley.

The list also includes the Stratford Renewable Energy Hub being developed by Yancoal Australia in the Hunter. The project is to include 300 MW / 3,600 MWh of pumped hydro energy storage and a 330 MW solar farm.

The transmission projects include the Victoria NSW Interconnector which would link the HumeLink Project in NSW with the Western Victoria Transmission Network Project and the Mount Piper to Wallerawang project which would strengthen connections between the Central West Orana Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) and major demand centres.

The third transmission project would deliver the infrastructure to connect renewable energy generation and storage projects within the New England REZ to the existing network.

The CSSI status does not mean the projects will definitely go ahead with an all-of-government assessment still needing to be undertaken on the projects including exhibition and an opportunity for submissions from the public.

“These projects will be subject to a comprehensive assessment which will include a period of public exhibition seeking submissions from the community,” Scully said.

The Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure will now issue the project proponents with a Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements report so they can prepare an environment impact statement for community feedback.

AGL Energy Hubs General Manager Travis Hughes welcomed the announcement, saying he was pleased to see the government recognise the critical role pumped hydro could play in providing essential long-duration storage for the NSW electricity grid.

“The 400 MW Muswellbrook Pumped Hydro plant is expected to have a 100-year asset life and provide eight hours of energy storage,” he said. “That’s four times the storage duration and five times the asset life of most current battery storage systems.”

The state government said if approved, all six projects will help maintain the state’s energy security and continue the essential energy supply to homes and businesses during peak-demand periods as coal-fired power plants exit the system.

“The three proposed transmission projects will connect additional renewable energy generators into the National Energy Market to attract further investment in NSW, while the three proposed pumped hydro projects will provide reliable energy generation, capacity and dispatchable power when solar or wind resources are unavailable,” it said in a statement.

The NSW government said there are currently up to 30 renewable energy projects with a combined capacity of 12.1 GW under assessment in NSW. A further 87 projects, including solar, wind, battery storage and pumped hydro projects are at various stages in the planning pipeline.

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