Central West Pumped Hydro Project
The Central West Pumped Hydro Project is a pumped storage hydro project in the early stages of project assessment and development, located between Bathurst and Lithgow, within 2.5 hours of Sydney.
ATCO Australia is proposing to develop the Central West Pumped Hydro Project (the Project).
When completed, the Project will store energy during periods of surplus electricity generation and generate energy during periods of high demand using the stored energy under a daily cycle regime. This process will generate sufficient energy to power over 153,000 homes, providing some 200 jobs during construction and 30 jobs on an ongoing basis.
Our long term community investment will be developed collaboratively during the project development phase, to deliver benefits to the community where we will live and work over the life of the project. The Project will deliver other local benefits such as upgrades to existing local infrastructure and roads.
Additionally, the project will require improvements to local telecommunications infrastructure, which is expected to improve coverage in the local area.
An important stage of project development is the independent planning process. The first stage involves the preparation of documentation explaining the proposed development. Called a Scoping Report, it includes high level information on the proposed project and is used by the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) and other agencies to develop the assessment requirements for the project that are necessary to prepare the Environmental Impact Statement. These assessment requirements are called the Secretary's Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs).
The Scoping Report and SEARs are now available on the NSW DPE Planning Portal and can be found HERE
Location: Yetholme, NSW
Construction Start Date: 2023
Operation Commences: 2026
Operational Water Requirement: 3GL
Power Capacity: 325MW
Energy Storage: 2,600 MWh (8 hours)
~CO2 Savings: 2.3 million equivalent tonnes/year
How does pumped hydro work
Pumped hydro utilises two bodies of water, knows as reservoirs, which are interconnected and located at different elevations, with a hydro power station situated near the lower reservoir.
Electricity is generated when water is released from the upper reservoir through the hydroelectric turbines. When surplus electricity is being produced by the electricity grid, for instance when there is excess variable energy from solar or wind, the water is then pumped from the lower reservoir back up to the upper reservoir using this excess electricity.
Using pumped hydro to create energy will assist in ‘evening out’ the variable energy generation resulting from the increased presence of wind and solar in the electricity grid, while facilitating the decarbonising of the national electricity grid and contributing to lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
Benefits to the Community
Delivering benefits for the community and the environment
At ATCO, we are committed to our communities. We have a long history of being a good neighbour, and an active member of the communities where we live and work. Over the development phase of the Project, ATCO will be working directly with the community as we explore and develop opportunities for investments to deliver benefits directly to the community for the life of the Project.
The Central West Pumped Hydro Project, will have the opportunity to further contribute to the community directly through the creation of 200 jobs during the three-year construction phase, with an ongoing 15 operational jobs based in the community, with on flow business to local contractors and businesses. Additionally, the Project will be delivering upgrades to local roads and infrastructure, together with working to improve communications and coverage in the community.
Throughout project development (see Project timeline below), ATCO will collaborate with the community, beyond simple engagement, with a focus on creating strong partnerships for the life of the Project.
ATCO's commitment to community investment allows us to best support the local communities in the areas where we live, work and operate. Through our Community Investment Framework (CIF), we highlight the importance of supporting valuable community development initiatives that are community driven. The CIF is one way that ATCO demonstrates the holistic project development approach in place.
Delivering clean, reliable energy
Development of pumped storage hydro projects like the Central West Pumped Hydro Project assist in decarbonising the electricity grid, providing reliable energy storage, improving grid stability and unlocking and supporting the growth of variable renewable energy sources in the Central West Orana Renewable Energy Zone. The Project will meaningfully contribute to lowering emissions, helping reduce electricity costs and combating the impacts of climate change.
The Project will store energy to help smooth-out energy peaks and troughs created by solar and wind, which are often termed variable renewable energy, effectively making that energy available throughout the day.
- Stable and reliable storage of electricity from renewable sources
- Energy generated will provide power for 153,000 homes
- Enabling 2.3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions avoided annually
- Providing benefits to the electricity grid, supporting more renewable energy
When energy demand is high and variable energy sources do not produce as much energy as required, pumped hydro can step in to even out the demand. In instances where more energy is required, water from the upper reservoir in the pumped hydro can be released, passing water through the turbines to generate energy. This helps to ‘even out’ the variable energy generation to create stability and reliability across the electricity network.
This energy transfer process in pumped hydro has enormous benefits, and complements renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, vital elements in the low carbon transition occurring the National Electricity Network (NEM).
Pumped hydro also provide additional essential network ancillary services vital for grid stability and security including providing fast response, bulk energy management in an ever-growing variable energy electricity network. These services will become increasingly important with the progressive retirement of the coal-fired power stations in NSW.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is developing the project?
ATCO Australia is developing the project.
What is the general timing of the project?
The development planning period for the project is expected over the next three years (2021 – 2023).
Subject to the completion of detailed environmental studies and regulatory approvals being in place, construction would commence in late 2023-early 2024, and last for an additional three years.
The facility would be operational in 2027.
How much will the project cost?
Approximately $500+ million.
Is this a renewable energy project?
Pumped hydro, like the Central West Project, works like a large battery. It works by pumping water to an upper reservoir when there is an excess of renewable energy, such as when the sun is shining and wind is blowing. This renewable energy is then stored, ready to generate energy at the times of the day it is most needed.
Pumped hydro typically operates in a daily cycle, pumping when there is an excess of renewable energy, such as in the middle of the day, generating energy at the times of the day when demand is high, typically around breakfast and dinner time.
Pumped hydro will be an important part of NSW energy future, providing important services to maintain a stable and reliable electricity grid.
Doesn’t the project consume more electricity than it generates?
Pumped hydro is the most common and most efficient method for the long term storage of energy. Pumped hydro has long been recognised as both a very efficient and effective part of electricity systems, balancing times of low and high electricity supply from variable energy sources, whilst also assisting grid reliability and stability. This is increasingly important in regions where intermittent renewables (large scale wind and solar farms) produce a large proportion of the region’s electricity consumption.
As more electricity is needed to pump the water up the hill than is produced moving the water down the hill, the facility is a net user of electricity. However, these plants are incredibly efficient (at around 80%) and can be made available in only a matter of minutes, making it very competitive with other energy storage options such as battery storage.
Where is the project located?
Central West Pumped Hydro is located on Wiradjuri Country, some 20km south-east from Bathurst, and 4km south of Yetholme on private land.
Which Council area (Local Government Area) is it located in?
Bathurst Regional Council
Why was the project located where it is?
The project is located on private land, close to existing electricity infrastructure.
The local topography is ideally suited for the efficient storage and transfer of water which means electricity can be generated efficiently, and does not affect prime agricultural land or any nature reserves.
Why is pumped hydro required?
The NSW Government has signaled that over the next 15 yrs, four of the five coal fired power stations which currently provide around three quarters of the State’s energy supply, will retire.
Intermittent renewable energy including solar and wind generation will in large part replace this lost generation. However, the variability of generation from renewable sources, can create challenges in the electricity system.
Investment in complementary forms of short and long duration electricity storage, such as pumped hydro, is required to ‘even out’ fluctuations’ in generation and provide essential network services that help to stabilise and secure the network.
Additionally, the development of pumped hydro projects like Central West Pumped Hydro, assist in decarbonising the electricity grid by providing grid stability and demand for renewable energy such as wind and solar projects, contributing to lower emissions, and combating the impacts of climate change.
How will this project help in the development of renewable energy?
Development of pumped hydro projects like Central West Pumped Hydro Project facilitate the development of variable renewable energy (such as wind and solar).
When completed, the Project will store energy during periods of surplus electricity generation and generate energy during periods of high demand using the stored energy under a daily cycle regime.
How long will construction take?
Approximately three years.
Will a construction camp be required?
No, we do not envisage a construction camp will be required.
How many jobs will be created?
During construction, some 200 jobs will be created. During operations, about 30 jobs are expected, with 15 of those jobs to be based locally.
How do I get in contact with you if I’m interested in getting work?
As we progress the project development, we will start to engage with the local contractor community. During project development we will be holding jobs and contracting sessions. Stay tuned.
What is the process for approvals?
The project will be assessed under State and Federal government regulations and will also be evaluated by the Department of Planning and Environment of NSW.
We will engage with the community, sharing information about the project and seeking feedback to help shape the project, before this process commences and throughout the entire lifespan of the project development.
Who will assess the project? What is the process for the approvals?
The State Government planning process involves the proponent (ATCO) to submit to the State Government a Scoping Report. This is a high level document describing the project. The Government will review this document and consult with other agencies to develop the Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs) for the project.
The SEARs outline the assessment requirements for the project and are valid for two years. These are publically available on Department of Planning and Environment’s major project website here.
We will then prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will developed in compliance with the SEARs. The EIS will then be submitted to the Government for assessment and determination. During the assessment process, a public exhibition period occurs, whereby you can provide submissions to the Government about the project.
The Scoping Report was submitted in April 2022. The completion of the detailed environmental studies will be completed by experts and submitted to the Government for assessment, which we expect will be in early 2023.
Throughout the life of the project, we will be engaging with the community, sharing information about the project and seeking feedback to help shape the project before submitting the EIS.
Do I have an opportunity to read and comment on the planning application?
As part of the planning process, we are required to prepare a detailed Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will be submitted to the NSW Government for assessment.
As part of this process, the government will undertake a public exhibition period. This normally takes approximately 28 days. During this period, you can view and make submissions about the project.
We will keep the community updated on the planning process, and inform our readers when the exhibition period is on.
Over and above this formal process, we will undertake a number of community open days – we will advertise in the local media about these as well as provide updates on our website.
We look forward to sharing with you more information about the project and to receive your feedback.
Will you be sharing information with the community?
Yes, we will be sharing lots of information with the community and seeking their feedback to help shape the project. At the moment, we are in the early stages of project development, and have engaged with landowners in the direct area of the project.
We are looking forward to meeting with the community and opening conversations to discuss the project and seeking input on the development of long term community initiatives, to contribute to the local area where we will live and work.
A number of community open days have been held and will continued to be hosted throughout the development phase of the project. We will advertise in the local media about these as well as provide updates on our website.
We look forward to sharing with you more information about the project and to receive your feedback.
Will you share information from various studies with the community?
Yes, we will provide information from our various studies periodically on the website, and in our engagement with the community and stakeholders.
Will the CWPH project effect people downstream?
Frying Pan Creek is a tributary creek flowing into the Fish River and currently flows through the valley where the lower reservoir is proposed to be located. One of the project requirements is to ensure a transparent flow of Frying Pan Creek, meaning the flow of the Creek will be maintained, with water passing through to the lower reaches of Frying Pan Creek, without being retained by the project.
Will the project affect water quality of Frying Pan Creek?
Although the hydrology assessments are still in progress, it is expected that the mixing of the water between the upper and lower reservoirs (expected to be daily) will be sufficient to enable the water to be well oxygenated. This is generally unlike other reservoirs that often have waterbodies ‘standing still’ leading to thermoclines (temperature differences through the water column) and deoxygenated water.
The project will be required to meet strict water quality criteria by government regulatory bodies. It is not anticipated there will be any deterioration in water quality downstream of the reservoir.
This will be fully investigated as part of the detailed site investigations and studies to be undertaken during the development stage of the project.
Where does the water come from to fill the reservoirs? Will existing users of the water source miss out?
The preferred water source for the project is from the Fish River. Detailed studies by independent technical experts are being completed during the development stage of the project.
Downstream landowners and water users have existing licences and domestic and stock water rights, which also exist alongside with environmental flows.
These water users and environmental flows will be fully considered as part of the detailed site investigations and studies to be undertaken in the development stage of the project.
The project's potential water strategy will fully consider the results of the detailed site investigations and studies, ensuring protection of the environment and other water users entitlements.
How will water flows and quality be maintained during the project's construction?
The intention is to divert the flow of Frying Pan Creek around the construction areas to enable water to ‘pass through’ the area and continue downstream, both preserving flows and maintaining water quality. The detail of this work will be undertaken with the construction contractor.
Will side flows from lesser creeks and springs be included in the flow through?
Yes, these inputs will be included in the Frying Pan Creek pass through.
Are there plans to address existing soil erosion and to rejuvenate the waterway?
There is some historic degradation of the riparian areas along parts of the Frying Pan Creek. ATCO is investigating partnering with some downstream landowners, where there is the opportunity to remediate these riparian areas to improve the overall health of the creek.
How is the release of water managed to ensure no further erosion to creek banks?
Preliminary engineering design work has been undertaken to incorporate energy dissipation on the immediate downstream side of the releases. This would also include erosion protection. This is an important area for the future detailed design, and we look forward to sharing more detail as it becomes available.
Want to know more? Sign up for Project updates!
Keep up to date with progression on the Central West Pumped Hydro Project by signing up to Project updates here.
We will also hold community open days throughout the Project development.
We value the input and feedback from the community and would love to hear from you.
Please contact us to get involved or learn more. You're always welcome to call into the ATCO Office at 1-52 Keppel Street, Bathurst, During business hours Monday-Thursday.