Defunct Iron Duchess mine in SA may be turned into 90MW hydro plant

Iron Duchess mine showing potential PHES reservoir site. Image: ARENA

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is to support a $1.7 million feasibility study (FS) regarding the conversion of the disused Iron Duchess mine near Whyalla, South Australia into a 90 megawatt (MW) pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) plant.

ARENA will commit $500,000 to the project on behalf of the South Australian Government.

The FS is designed to investigate whether the iron ore pit could be used as a reservoir for the proposer PHES plant. First stage of production is expected to be completed by late 2018, and will include network and engineering studies, as well as geotechnical investigation and commercial evaluation.

Should the project go ahead, it is expected to cost $170 million, be built by 2022 and be called the Middleback Ranges PHES Plant.

The CEO of ARENA, Ivor Frischknecht, said the FS would aid in the assessment of South Australia’s growing potential as a renewable energy producer.

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

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

Among other ventures, ARENA is also funding the Kidston hybrid solar and PHES project in Queensland, as well as providing funding for several renewable feasibility studies, including Snowy 2.0 in New South Wales, the Battery of the Nation project in Tasmania, and Cultana PHES project in SA.

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