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The New South Wales Government has designated the Muswellbrook Pumped Hydro Project as critical for the former coal mining town of Muswellbrook.  

AGL and Idemitsu have welcomed the announcement from the New South Wales Government regarding the project receiving Critical State Significant Infrastructure (CSSI) status. CSSI projects are high-priority infrastructure projects essential to New South Wales for economic, social, or environmental reasons. The CSSI process involves a declaration by the Minister for Planning that a state significant infrastructure project is critical. 

The proposed 400MW eight-hour storage Muswellbrook Pumped Hydro plant is expected to provide power and grid support services at critical times. It will be based at the Muswellbrook Coal Mine, which operated from 1944 until mid-2022. The Pumped Hydro plant will pump water uphill into an existing mine void at the closed Muswellbrook Coal Mine when there is excess energy from solar and wind, releasing water to generate power during high energy demand. The mine void will operate as the lower reservoir, with the proposal to use an upper reservoir at Bells Mountain. 

This project is one of six renewable energy projects given CSSI status due to their potential significance to the New South Wales economy. If approved, the new projects will help maintain the state’s critical energy security and continue the essential energy supply to homes and businesses during peak-demand periods as coal-fired sources close.  

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Paul Scully, said, “I have declared these six important projects as Critical State Significant Infrastructure as they are significant to the New South Wales economy, society and the environment. 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. These projects will be subject to a comprehensive assessment, including a period of public exhibition seeking submissions from the community.”  

AGL’s General Manager of Energy Hubs, Travis Hughes, outlined the vital role the plant could play in providing long-duration storage for the state.  

“We are pleased the government recognises the critical role this project could play in providing essential long-duration storage for the New South Wales electricity grid. The 400MW Muswellbrook Pumped Hydro plant is expected to have a 100-year asset life and provide eight hours of energy storage. That is four times the storage duration and five times the asset life of most current battery storage systems. The project can potentially create 250 jobs during construction and 20 ongoing jobs during operation.”    

Idemitsu Australia’s Chief Executive Officer, Steve Kovac, said, “The Muswellbrook Pumped Hydro project will provide an on-demand source of energy generation. We believe this is critical to delivering renewable energy at lower prices and will benefit both the community and businesses.  

“This project is part of Australia’s renewable energy future. It demonstrates a genuine opportunity for post-mining land use that creates significant ongoing value to New South Wales, along with direct employment and economic benefits to the regional communities of the Hunter Valley.”  

The plant would be located near Muswellbrook in the Hunter Central Coast Renewable Energy Zone and has been awarded $9.45 million in funding under the State Government’s Pumped Hydro Recoverable Grants Program.  

If advanced development studies are successful and the project receives the final investment decision and government approvals, the first generation is targeted for 2029.  

Image: Taras Vyshnya/stock.adobe.com

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