Introducing OMPS: a ‘giant water battery’ for NSW

21 February 2022 – Alinta Energy is partnering with the Oven Mountain Pumped Hydro Energy Storage (OMPS) team to co-develop a $1.5 billion pumped hydro project located adjacent to the Macleay River between Armidale and Kempsey. We acknowledge the Thunggutti people, Traditional Custodians of the land on which the project is located, and pay our respects to their Elders past and present. Patricio Muñoz, OMPS stakeholder engagement manager, gave Alinta Energy’s Julian Polachek a quick overview of the project.

The geotechnical drilling team hard at work on site near the Oven Mountain lower reservoir
The geotechnical drilling team hard at work on site near the Oven Mountain lower reservoir.

JP: Tell us about the project and why you think it’s promising

PM: The Oven Mountain project is an ‘off river’ pumped hydro energy development located on private land adjacent to the Macleay River between Armidale and Kempsey. We are tucked into the mountains about 6km from Georges Junction and are perfectly placed in the recently declared New England Renewable Energy Zone (REZ).

If the project had a social media profile, it would read: reliable, resilient, and renewable. It also helps to have some unique natural features, and in this case, that includes a steep terrain, and access to both a major river and transmission line. This all means that we will be able to generate up to 600MW (and about 12 hours’ worth) of power, which we can then readily feed back to the grid.

As you know, delivering major projects isn’t easy, but the need for the project increases as aging coal-fired generation retires and renewable energy penetration increases. In declaring the REZ, the NSW Government is looking to deliver new network capacity to host up to 8 GW of new generation. We see ourselves as an integral part of these plans, which makes it all very exciting.

JP: Why are pumped hydro projects important for the transition to net zero?

PM: Our collective transition to ‘net zero’ is a necessary and ambitious target – which requires equally as ambitious projects.

We see ourselves as a passionate, committed, and ambitious bunch. We are working hard to build what some people often call a ‘giant water battery’, which will help firm up and facilitate other renewable energy sources in the New England area and the National Electricity Market.

I guess we’re a bit like the giant handful of D size batteries in a boombox. We need the big capacity, long duration power storage and supply that pumped hydro can provide. Oh boy… how badly have I given away my age?

JP: What stage are you up to and what’s next?

PM: At the moment we’re working on our Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which we hope to submit to the NSW Department of Planning & Environment by the end of the year. The EIS is an important part of the planning approval process and includes a whole lot of different investigations – environmental, social, and economic.
We kicked off this process in 2021 and have been doing a whole bunch of different things, including design and geotechnical and hydrogeological work. We’re also working hard to engage with project stakeholders, including the local communities. More activities are planned over coming months.

It is shaping up to be a very busy year. But we are lucky to have a great team of experienced and dedicated professionals who not only give it their all but also want to get the best outcome for the region. Now it’s time to make the most of the blue-sky days, let everyone in the community know about our project, and help people have their say.

JP: Where can people get the most up to date info on the project?

PM: www.ompshydro.com has everything people should need, including details of upcoming community information sessions.