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.