MULLUMBIMBY may well play a big part in forging a clean energy future for Australia.
A new study from ANU in Canberra has identified pumped storage hydro (PSH) as a key component of a rapid transition to renewable energy for Australia, and the biggest little town in NSW is on the map.
Community renewable group COREM has been investigating the steps required to recommission the Laverty's Gap Hydro Electric Power Station for the past two years, and PSH could be the key to getting it up and running again.
A major step forward for the Mullum Mini Hydro occurred with a key stakeholders meeting and site visit held earlier this year with representatives from Essential Energy, COREM, Byron Shire Council, OEH, DPI, Enova, and Nationals MP Ben Franklin, who is the NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Renewable Energy.
"The major impediment at this stage to the Mullum Mini Hydro project is access to the water from the weir, as the current 10-year Water Sharing Plan has no allocation for the hydro, despite the weir being built for this purpose by the community almost 100 years ago,” project manager, Svea Pitman said.
"Pumped storage hydro is a way around this issue as it's a closed system with water returned to the original source, in this case the Laverty's Gap weir.
"The release of Professor Blakers's research by ANU is timely for us as it brings political focus to PSH designs and their significant potential to increase solar PV penetration.
"We are aiming for a rapid transition to 100% renewable energy generation in the Byron Shire, and the Mullum Mini Hydro can help increase the rate of solar by addressing intermittency issues.
"Hydro electricity is a rapidly deployed source of renewable energy and can be used to balance the generation from solar PV, which varies of course over a day.”
Ella Goninan from COREM said they were also part of the recent mobilisation of the Byron Shire Energy Action Tank.
"We are thrilled by the recent support to build 70MW of community-owned solar PV projects in the Byron Shire as pumped hydro requires electricity to pump the water back to the weir, this large scale generation will allow COREM to offset the pumping with our own solar generation,” Ms Goninan said.
Hydro experts, Entura Energy have been supporting COREM with the Mullum Mini Hydro project and in preparation for a pre-feasibility study will be undertaking a full hydrological resource assessment, including new sources of hydro generation, in coming weeks.
The Laverty's Gap hydro power station ran from 1926 to the 1960s and was decommissioned in 1990. It was saved from demolition in 2008 by local residents who lodged a heritage application, granted in 2014.
The original generation capacity of the hydro was 288KW from 2 pelton wheel turbines that are still on site. Essential Energy manages the power station, which is co-owed by council. The weir and race are still intact and provide the town water for Mullumbimby. The hydro power station is next to Essential Energy's Mullumbimby Substation, ideal for grid connection.
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