ARENA backs study to convert Iron Duchess mine into 90MW pumped hydro plant

EBR Staff Writer Published 21 February 2018

GFG Alliance has secured funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) for a feasibility study to assess the potential to convert a mothballed mine into a 90MW pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) plant.

On behalf of the Australian Government, ARENA has committed A$500,000 to GFG Alliance to assess ways to convert the Iron Duchess North mine pit located in the South Middleback Ranges, near Whyalla, to a lower reservoir for a PHES plant.

The PHES power plant, which will with have an estimated capacity of 90MW and 390MWh of storage, is expected to enhance South Australia’s energy security.

GFG Alliance plans to complete the first stage of feasibility study by late 2018. The work will include high level designs, engineering studies, network studies, geotechnical investigation, market modeling and commercial evaluation.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the feasibility study is a part of the first stage in assessing potential sites capable of storing South Australia’s growing renewable energy generation.

“South Australia has ideal wind and solar resources to support large scale renewable generation, so we will need energy storage options to harness and store this capacity so it is available at all times.

“We are excited to explore the potential of old mining assets being turned into renewable energy storage which can provide dispatchable and reliable power.”

The Middleback Ranges PHES plant, subject to positive results from the study, is planned to be constructed by 2022. It is estimated to cost $170m.

SIMEC ZEN Energy, a unit of GFG Alliance, is expected to play a key role in the feasibility study for the project.

GFG Alliance business SIMEC Mining executive general manager Matt Reed said: “As well as the environmental advantages this innovative renewable energy project will bring, it will also re-use depleted pits, thereby unlocking a legacy from past economic activity for the benefit of Australia’s future generations.”

“GFG Alliance is grateful for this funding support that will help accelerate Australia’s transition to a more economic, secure, reliable, and sustainable electricity network.”

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