In 2017, Muswellbrook Shire Council identified a significant Pumped Hydro Energy Storage (PHES) opportunity within the Muswellbrook local government area. Council has announced it will shortly call for Expressions of Interest to develop the site for future energy storage.

Muswellbrook Shire Council played a key role in the identification and development of the proposed site and welcomes investment from industry partners to further the feasibility and planning of the project. The potential site has been the subject of ongoing research by Muswellbrook Shire Council and the University of Newcastle.

In August 2017 Council engaged with experts at the Australian National University and the University of Newcastle to investigate the potential for pumped hydro as an economic development initiative.

In these discussions several existing mine voids were identified as having the potential to be used as lower reservoirs. Council then commissioned the University of Newcastle to prepare a study to explore the opportunity further for a site close to Muswellbrook. A report was delivered in October 2017 that identified the proposed site as a “viable option deserving of serious consideration, given the strategic value of its location, scale and relatively low cost of construction.”

Council then acquired an option for the land in order to explore further the opportunity for development. This initiative highlights Council’s role in the economic diversification of the region by supporting projects aimed at unlocking investment opportunities and delivering future jobs. Investigating projects like this is central to Council’s strategy to encourage investment from a broad range of industries from mining to energy and agribusiness. It highlights the collaborative role of the mining sector to diversify their markets and embrace the opportunities inherent in long-term industrial transition.

“When Council consults with community, there is a repeated and consistent concern threaded through all our feedback - where will our kids work in twenty years from now? This is why we continue to explore opportunities like this Pumped Hydro project and why we welcome the opportunity to partner with Industry on projects aimed at delivering future jobs for our Shire,” Muswellbrook Mayor Martin Rush said.

“We are a pioneering and innovative country and we are not afraid of the future. Muswellbrook has proudly played a key role for over a century in energy generation in this country and we are determined to continue to do so for a long time to come.”

“This announcement is possible today through the initial expert advice of Professor Andrew Blakers and Dr Mathew Stocks (ANU) and the in-depth analysis of a team at the University of Newcastle including Professor Richard Bush, Associate Professor Steve Weller, Dr Michael Askew and Dr Matthew Ives (Oxford University).”

“We look forward to seeing the next stage of this project and for what is likely to be a $200million infrastructure project for Muswellbrook Shire with around 200 jobs in construction and 25 ongoing operational jobs.”

Council has now called for Expressions of Interest (EOI) to facilitate the sale of land option for the reservoir and the progression to the next stage of feasibility for the project.

The documents may be downloaded from the E-tendering portal

Tenderlink Logo

For further information please contact Gerry Bobsien on 6549 3700.


What is it?

Pumped hydroelectric energy storage (PHES), is commonly used in electric power systems for load balancing. Energy is stored in the form of gravitational potential energy of water, pumped from a lower elevation reservoir to a higher elevation. The stored water can be released through turbines to produce electric power as required. The flexibility of this system and capacity to store intermittent source of power (e.g. wind and solar) and/or excess electricity from continuous base-load sources (such as coal), is the core advantage.

Pumped storage is the largest-capacity form of grid energy storage currently available, and accounting for more than 96% worldwide. The main disadvantage of PHES are the restrictive landform and hydrological requirements for suitable sites. However, a recent desktop survey by the Australian National University identified hundreds of potentially suitable locations in eastern Australia.

With the assistance of the experts at the ANU and through further research by the University of Newcastle, Council has identified a suitable site for an upper reservoir.

Muswellbrook Shire Council then commissioned a report looking into the viability of the site.

This report was a desktop study investigating the physical parameters of the site alongside energy storage calculations, water storage capacity and a range of cost scenarios. It outlined the value of proceeding to the next stage to investigate economic and technical feasibility. The report concluded that the site was worthy of further investigation.

What is the next phase?

If an interested party is successful with the tender process. Council will transfer the option of land to the proponent who will then embark on a staged process for feasibility of the project.

This feasibility phase is likely to take twelve months and will include studies such as:

Geology, Geomorphology and Geotech.
Engineering concept design
Water concept layout and surface modelling
Vegetation mapping and ecology studies
Power Connection Studies
Financial modelling.

Following studies like these, a planning process is likely to commence with the NSW Government and this extensive process may take 18 months to two years including community consultation and assessments.

Is there a plan of the proposal to look at?

This project is in the very early stages of development. As such, there is no plan at this stage however as the studies progress to the next phase a plan will be developed and a full environmental impact study and planning process undertaken including community consultation.

Hydel pump Small2

Above: this is a PHES system from Germany – built in 1966. It is not new technology!

Image source: Department of Energy (US) Global Energy Storage Database

Back to top