Origin to double capacity of Shoalhaven hydro scheme

Shoalhaven. Image: Origin

Origin Energy has announced a $250 million expansion of the Shoalhaven pumped hydro scheme in New South Wales.

The proposed expansion would boost capacity of the scheme from 240MW to 500MW – which would power an extra 80,000 homes.

The facility, located near Kangaroo Valley, has been generating electricity by pumping water from Lake Yarrunga to power stations at Bendeela and Kangaroo Valley for more than 40 years.

The scheme was built in 1977 and designed for double its current capacity.

“With the energy market in transition we see an opportunity to expand, making it a really substantial pumped hydro scheme in the national electricity market,” Origin Energy CEO Frank Calabria said at the facility on Monday.

“Australia’s energy market has been dominated by baseload coal for such a long time, but as we transition we have more renewables coming in, coal-fired power stations are getting older and leaving the system – we need reliable power.”

With AGL’s Liddell coal-fired power station set to close in 2022, Origin said the Shoalhaven expansion could contribute to NSW’s electricity mix in the future.

The company announced two different potential plans for the expansion of its Shoalhaven facility.

The first option is to build a new turbine generator and add another pipe and tunnel to transport more water. This plan is cheaper and would add around 160MW of extra pumped storage capacity.

The second option, which the company prefers, is to create a new 235MW pumped storage generator by drilling underneath the Bendeela dam.

Mr Calabria told media the expansion would have a short construction and approvals timeframe because of existing transmission infrastructure.