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Oven Mountain
Pumped Hydro Energy Storage

Project introduction

The Oven Mountain Pumped Hydro Energy Storage project is a 600MW ‘off river’ development located on private land near the Macleay River between Armidale and Kempsey and is expected to provide up to 12 hours of storage.  The project has highly favourable and studied natural terrain, including an excellent head height and only a short distance between the two reservoirs.

A closed loop will be constructed that pumps water from a lower reservoir to an upper reservoir to store energy.  Water is released back down to the lower reservoir, generating electricity as needed.  It is effectively a giant ‘water battery’. 

Being ‘off river’ or a ‘closed loop’ scheme means that once filled, the project have little to no additional annual water needs over an operational life in excess of 50 years.  Water from the Macleay River will be used for the initial fill, a one-off event during the construction period. This fill will only take place under high river flow conditions and, even during this period, is expected to utilise a small percentage of total river flow. Small amounts of top-up water may be required periodically to make up for any seepage and evaporation from the reservoirs.

As part of the project, upgrades to up to 60km of existing roads between Armidale and Kempsey will be required to allow for safe construction and operation access. 

Communications within the region will also need to be upgraded. This will likely involve the laying of fibre optic cables to underpin 4G connectivity. The existing transmission network will also require an upgrade to enable transport of power to the grid.

NSW is set to lose 86% of its coal-fired power generation over the next 20 years. This creates a critical need for flexible, dispatchable generation to firm up new low-cost variable generation such as wind and solar. Pumped hydro energy storage is a perfect complement to wind and solar power, allowing excess renewable energy to be stored and then released when the power is needed to meet consumer demand. This allows the project to place downwards pressure on energy prices.

Located within the New England Renewable Energy Zone, the Oven Mountain Pumped Hydro Energy Storage project will be capable of providing system strength and other services critical to ensuring a reliable, resilient future energy supply for NSW.

Location

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The project is in the Armidale Regional Local Government Area, approximately 60km southeast of Armidale and 70km northwest of Kempsey, via the Kempsey-Armidale road. The proposal is located on private land near the Macleay River.
 

The site possesses excellent characteristics for pumped hydro energy storage development, namely a significant ‘head’ height and natural rock formations which are ideally shaped to work as reservoirs. The project will be in the New England Renewable Energy Zone and will provide critical firming support and system strength services to the grid.

How will the project work?

At its very simplest, pumped hydro energy storage can be thought of as a giant battery.  The concept is basic enough: Pump water up-hill when electricity prices are low and use it to generate electricity when prices are high.  How much energy can be stored and utilised depends on a combination of the elevation difference in the circuit and the volume of water available.

Pumped hydro energy storage can be either open loop – where water is accessed from and released into large water sources such as a sea or ocean, or closed loop – where water is cycled between an upper and lower reservoir. Oven Mountain is a closed loop project.

 

A key advantage of a closed loop pumped hydro energy storage facility, and the Oven Mountain project, is that no rivers are dammed or diverted.  This ensures that sensitive ecosystems are protected from the electricity generation activities and there is no net impact on local water use.  By using reversible turbines, water can be pumped or released between the off-river reservoirs.

Pumped hydro is the largest form of grid energy storage available in the world. At over 180 GW, it represents over 95% of grid energy storage installed capacity.  Its appeal stems from its technology maturity, fast response times and excellent network support services.

Project benefits

local benefits

REGIONAL benefits

During the construction phase of the project, spanning approximately 3 years, the project will create around 600 direct plus supply chain jobs spanning a wide range of skills and activities.  In order to accommodate the level of construction required, significant upgrade of local roads will be needed for access from Kempsey and Armidale.

Once constructed, around 30 operational jobs will be required to support the project over its 50+ year life and the project will seek to maximise ongoing local economic and community benefits as much as possible.

All-weather road access will be required over the project’s operational life to ensure high project availability and local road safety.  Roads and the reservoirs have the potential to improve emergency services access and fire management.

High grade communications are required as part of the ongoing operations of the Oven Mountain facility and new fibre optic infrastructure will be required, forming part of the electricity transmission upgrades to Armidale.  This upgrade should facilitate improvements to local mobile telecommunications.

STATE-WIDE BENEFITS

The Oven Mountain Pumped Hydro Energy Storage project offers low emissions support to the National Electricity Market (NEM) through its unique combination of size, beneficial natural attributes and proximity to the 330 kilovolt transmission backbone. 

As a spinning machine, the project is able to provide essential system security services which improve grid resilience. In doing so, the Oven Mountain facility will help unlock significant low cost renewable energy investment in the New England region which is anticipated to replace over 9 GW of planned NSW coal generation retirement over the next 20 years.

With its ability to capture and store excess generation for later use, the project is able to firm variable renewable energy to help ensure that NSW has a reliable energy supply and can better utilise existing transmission infrastructure. In effect, the project will underpin the transition to a low carbon electricity system.

Oven Mountain’s ability to balance supply with demand and its sheer scale, being comparable to the largest generating units in NSW, will mean it is strategically placed to increase market competition and drive wholesale energy prices down.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

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Project timeline and activities

We are at the early stages of development. As we investigate the site and progress with development activities, we will continue to meet with community stakeholders. We will announce all events via this website and send newsletter updates to nearby residents periodically.

Community Consultation

The project team takes all stakeholder views seriously and we are conducting extensive early consultation.

We anticipate that a Community Consultation Committee will be established in coming months to enable local stakeholders to receive project information and provide feedback to the project team.

environmental studies

We are currently undertaking detailed environmental study of the project site. The results of these studies will inform our preliminary design and a formal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which we will submit to the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE).

The environmental studies include ecological and biodiversity assessments as well as some ground sampling to assess the geology at the site.

We want to hear from you

Please don’t hesitate to contact us for further information or to provide feedback on the Oven Mountain Pumped Hydro Energy Storage project. You can email us directly at info@ompshydro.com or fill in the form on the right.

We also have a project feedback form with specific questions. You can download the form using the link below and send it back to us via email or post.