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June 30, 2022

Pumped-storage hydro potential for Mullumbimby

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Lavertys Gap Weir. Photo NSW Office of Environment & Heritage
Lavertys Gap Weir. Photo NSW Office of Environment & Heritage

Local renewable energy group COREM have given an update about the feasibility of recommissioning Mullumbimby’s hydro power station at Lavertys Gap.

It comes in the wake of a new ANU study recommending that Pumped Storage Hydro (PSH) could be a key component of a rapid transition to renewable energy for Australia.

COREM’s Mullum Mini Hydro project manager Svea Pitman told The Echo the hydro power station ran from 1926 till the 1960s and was decommissioned in 1990.

‘It was saved from demolition in 2008 by local residents who lodged a Heritage application, which was granted in 2014.’

The original generation capacity of the hydro was 288KW from two peltonwheel turbines that are still onsite. Essential Energy manages the power station, which is co-owned by Council. The weir and race are still intact and provide the town water for Mullumbimby.

‘The hydro power station is adjacent to Essential Energy’s Mullumbimby Substation, which is ideal for grid connection.

‘A major step forward for the Mullum Mini-Hydro occurred with a key stakeholders’ meeting and site visit, held on July 27. Those who attended included representatives from Essential Energy, COREM, Byron Shire Council, Office of Environment and heritage (OEH), the Department of Primary Industries (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 ten-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.’

‘Pumped Storage Hydro is a way around this issue’, she continued. ‘PSH is a closed system with water returned to the original source, in this case the Lavertys Gap weir.

‘We are aiming for a rapid transition to 100 per cent 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.

‘COREM is very proud to be part of the mobilisation of the Byron Shire Energy Action Tank, and thrilled by the recent support to build 70MW of community-owned solar PV projects in the Byron Shire. As PSH 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.’

She says hydro experts Entura Energy are preparing a pre-feasibility study in coming weeks.

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