EnergyAustralia recognises its Mt Piper power station and Lake Lyell is on the traditional Country of Wiradjuri peoples and respects and acknowledges their continued connection to Country and culture.
We are currently investigating a pumped hydro project at Lake Lyell near Lithgow in NSW. This project proposes to use Lake Lyell as a lower reservoir with a new upper reservoir built on the southern flank of the adjacent Mt Walker.
Preliminary feasibility studies by engineering firm Arup suggest that a pumped hydro project is technically feasible. Click the video link below to see a graphical representation of the project concept design.
We are currently investigating a pumped hydro project on Wiradjuri Country at Lake Lyell near Lithgow in NSW. This project proposes to use Lake Lyell as a lower reservoir with a new upper reservoir built on the southern flank of the adjacent Mt Walker.
By using existing infrastructure, water, nearby transmission lines and EnergyAustralia land, the project has great potential to power homes in the state, support more renewables entering the system and contribute economic benefits to the region.
The site could accommodate a facility capable of producing up to 335 megawatts (MW) of electricity with around eight hours of storage. This is enough to power over 150,000 households during peak periods.
The image below provides a graphical representation of the proposed project.
For around a century, coal-fired power plants have provided Australians with reliable and affordable power while supporting economic development. As the world moves to cleaner forms of energy, we want to lead the transition in Australia while maintaining those advantages.
Renewable electricity is one piece of the energy puzzle – but more pieces, such as energy storage, are needed to deal with intermittency.
Pumped hydro works by using multiple reservoirs of water - one at a high elevation, and one at a low elevation.
When demand for power is lower and electricity is cheap, the plant uses energy to pump water from the lower reservoir to the upper reservoir. Energy is stored there in the gravitational potential of water.
When demand for power rises, the process is reversed, and water from the upper reservoir is released back into the lower reservoir through the same system of pipes. Except this time, the turbines act as they would in a traditional hydroelectric plant. The turbines generate electricity that is then sent to the grid for use in homes and businesses.
Fresh water pumped hydro has been used around the world. In fact, the Shoalhaven and Wivenhoe pumped hydro schemes have operated for decades on the east coast of Australia.
Along with other forms of storage, pumped hydro will be an important part of integrating more renewable power and delivering reliable and affordable supply of electricity to NSW.
It’s reliable – pumped hydro doesn’t rely on seasonal water flows like traditional hydroelectricity.
It supports renewable energy – storing large volumes of energy provides cover when renewables aren’t available (e.g. when it’s dark and still).
It’s a natural fit – the project can help progress the energy transition by leveraging existing infrastructure at Lake Lyell and nearby power lines.
It can help stabilise the grid – the project can provide much-needed grid and system stability for NSW and will connect to the electricity grid in a strong part of the network.
It’s long-life – pumped hydro facilities can operate for decades with no reduction in storage capacity.
Creates jobs – pumped hydro is a large infrastructure project that will create jobs during construction, operation and maintenance over its long life.
There’s still a lot of work to do before we can make a final investment decision on this project.
The next stage of feasibility studies aim to further reduce technological and environmental risks. Work to be done includes geotechnical investigations, further engineering design, environmental impact assessments, planning approvals, transmission connection studies and refining the project business case. To assist with the cost of this work, we are planning to tender the project into the NSW Government’s Pumped Hydro Recoverable Grants Program, which provides funding support for the development of pumped hydro projects as part of the Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap.
We know that Lake Lyell is a popular recreational location for the local community, so we are looking at ways to minimise environmental and social impacts as we refine the project design. We’re also consulting with the community to understand their views on the project. Ultimately any project we do must be good for the environment and good for people.
If the project continues to look promising, design and development work typically takes around two years and construction around three. That means a pumped hydro facility at Lake Lyell could be operating by 2027.
We think the technology has great potential to help deliver cleaner, reliable and affordable supplies of electricity in a modern Australian energy system. We also believe this project could play an important role as part of the future energy mix in New South Wales and support Lithgow’s future in becoming a renewable energy hub.