Zen announces 1 GW pumped hydro project for NSW coal country


Adelaide-headquartered renewable energy gen-tailer Zen Energy is proposing to turn a disused coal washery site at Nattai on the eastern side of Lake Burragorang, into a clean energy powerhouse, delivering on-demand electricity to help stabilise the New South Wales (NSW) electricity grid as it transitions to renewable energy generation.

Zen said its proposed Western Sydney Pumped Hydro project planned for Lake Burragorang, about 24 kilometres upstream from the Warragamba Dam wall in the Blue Mountains, would be capable of providing critical backup for renewable energy sources, generating 1 GW of on-demand power for up to eight hours – enough to power the equivalent of 500,000 homes and businesses.

Zen said if all approvals and a social licence are secured, construction could begin at the site, about two hours southwest of Sydney, in 2027 with the asset to be operational by 2031.

“The vast water reserves of Lake Burragorang can supply Sydneysiders with clean drinking water and clean, renewable energy as well,” Zen Chief Executive Officer Anthony Garnaut said.

“Large-scale energy storage projects like Western Sydney Pumped Hydro are key to keeping the lights on and energy prices in check in NSW as our coal-fired power stations age and retire over the next decade.”

Zen Energy Director Ross Garnaut and CEO Anthony Garnaut inspect Lake Burragorang.

Image: WaterNSW

The pumped hydro project marks Zen’s entry into renewable energy development in NSW and the company said it will now progress community consultations and site assessments with initial studies having established that the project would have no detrimental impact on water quality at Lake Burragorang and Warragamba Dam, which is 24 kilometres upstream.

WaterNSW Chief Executive Andrew George said the corporation has completed a water quality risk assessment at the proposed Western Sydney Pumped Hydro site, stating that should the project proceed, a small amount of water, much less than is lost to evaporation, will be used in a continuous loop.

George said WaterNSW has already conducted an extensive water quality risk assessment on all aspects of the proposal and will continue to undertake such analyses as Zen Energy progresses the proposal through the planning and approval processes.

“As custodians of Sydney’s water supply, our most critical factor in considering this proposal was making sure that the project does not impact the quantity or quality of the water supply from Warragamba Dam at any stage,” he said.

The development agreement with WaterNSW is the fourth pumped hydro project being explored as part of the corporation’s Renewable Energy and Storage Program. Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Upper Hunter Hydro (UHH) was earlier this year awarded a contract to develop two large-scale pumped hydro projects in the Hunter Valley while Acen Australia is pursuing plans to develop a project at Lake Burrendong in the state’s central west.

Should the Western Sydney Pumped Hydro project proceed to construction, it is expected to create approximately 1,500 construction jobs and 80 ongoing operations jobs.


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