The New South Wales Government has declared the Shoalhaven Hydro Expansion project as a critical state infrastructure.
Origin Energy has proposed to expand the existing Shoalhaven Pumped Hydro Scheme from 240MW to 475MW. The expanded project can generate enough electricity to power nearly 80,000 homes.
The proposed upgrade of 235MW at an estimated cost of A$300m ($215.9m) includes the construction of a new hydroelectric power and pump station and ancillary infrastructure. A significant part of the construction is expected to be underground and will be located between Fitzroy Falls Reservoir and Lake Yarrunga.
As per the government, the project is essential for the economic reasons and can have environmental and social benefits by helping the state to transition to low emissions-based economy. The project is also expected to help in bringing down electricity prices and creating nearly 350 jobs during its construction phase.
Even though the project has been declared ‘critical’, it will still be subject to community consultation and full and thorough environmental assessment in accordance with the NSW Government policies and standards.
Origin Energy could submit two applications for the project including one for exploratory geotechnical works to inform the design of the project and the other to expand the existing Shoalhaven Scheme.
The company is also expected to request assessment requirements to prepare for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the exploratory works application. After receiving, the EIS will be put on exhibition for community feedback.
The NSW Planning and Environment Department will assess the proposal while taking into account the environmental, social and economic impacts, all community and stakeholder submissions received during exhibition and advice from government and independent experts.
In October, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) offered a funding of A$6.8m ($4.83m) to Origin Energy to move the Shoalhaven pumped hydro scheme towards a feasibility study.
Located in the NSW Southern Highlands, 150km south of Sydney, the pumped hydro scheme comprises two pumped storage hydropower stations – the 160MW Kangaroo Valley Power Station and the 80MW Bendeela Power Station.