EnergyAustralia commits $80m to Mt Piper upgrades

Mt Piper Power Station
Mt Piper Power Station

EnergyAustralia has announced it will invest more than $80 million in operational upgrades at its Mt Piper power station near Lithgow to expand the plant’s capacity by 60 megawatts, or enough electricity to power an additional 55,000 New South Wales homes.

EnergyAustralia managing director Catherine Tanna said the work involved replacing the majority of the internal componentry of the plant’s two 700 MW-capacity turbines. The project would be completed in 2020 and 2021, allowing each unit to provide 30 MW of additional power without having to burn more coal.

“Last year the community celebrated 25 years of Mt Piper providing reliable power to homes and businesses across New South Wales,” Ms Tanna said.

“Now we’re investing $80 million to help make sure the plant is around for another quarter century, and it’s as efficient as it can possibly be.

“The upgrade means Mt Piper will be able to power an additional 55,000 homes without burning a single, additional lump of coal.”

Mt Piper’s nameplate generation capacity of 1400 MW is enough to supply 15 per cent of New South Wales’ electricity demand. It also supports system stability and complements intermittent forms of electricity like wind and solar as these new sources of power are integrated into a modern energy system.

“This is an incredibly important energy asset for New South Wales and the local Lithgow community so we are doing everything in our power to ensure it continues to operate in the most efficient and environmentally friendly way,” Ms Tanna said.

Today, the power station provides direct and in-direct jobs for around 250 people and contributes around $40 million each year to the local economy. The turbine upgrades will increase economic activity in the Lithgow region during the upgrades with around 100 workers expected to contribute to the project.

Related article: Gold Fields gold mine to be powered by renewables

With the closure of the Liddell Power Station expected in 2022, this is one of many investments that will be needed to replace it.

“For EnergyAustralia and other companies, competing to replace Liddell is a big opportunity, one we’re looking forward to. We think the answer lies in a mix of renewables, gas, coal and transmission upgrades. A modern energy system, with a diversity of supply, will strengthen energy security, while providing clean and affordable power to New South Wales,” Ms Tanna said.

Toshiba International Corporation Pty. Ltd.(TIC), the Australian subsidiary of Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions Corporation (Toshiba ESS) which has extensive international experience with energy technology, has been selected to carry out the upgrade works.

Toshiba ESS director and senior vice president of the Power Systems division Takao Konishi said, “We are proud to be part of this project that will provide greater reliability in power supply. We will continue to contribute to supplying a clean and reliable source of power for New South Wales by providing our advanced technology and excellent performance of our works.”

The turbine upgrades are just one of the ongoing investments EnergyAustralia is making to secure the long future of Mt Piper.

Related article: New report says EVs better for health

The company in partnership with Centennial Coal is also investing in a new $200 million water treatment facility to treat mine water from the Springvale coal mine and enable its industrial re-use in the cooling system of Mount Piper. According to EnergyAustralia, long-term sustainable operation of the power station will deliver environmental benefits to the local rivers and waterways.

In addition, EnergyAustralia is investigating rail transport options to diversify coal supply to the power station. Historically, there were six local mines capable of supplying Mount Piper. Now there’s just one – Springvale – and it is facing a series of operational and planning challenges.

Mt Piper was commissioned in stages over 1992 and 1993. Today the plant comprises two 700 MW coal-fired steam turbines. It draws its cooling water from Lyell Dam and Thompsons Creek Dam, both of which were specifically built to supply water to the power station.