This Energy Storage Plan is a Gold Mine. No, Really.

October 14, 2022

PV Magazine:

The Mt Rawdon Pumped Hydro Project, as it’s called, is being developed by gold miner Evolution Mining, alongside financial consultancy ICA Partners. 

The plan is to use the enormous pit dug from decades of mining at Evolution Mining’s Mt Rawdon gold mine, which sits about 75 kilometres southwest of Bundaberg, as the lower reservoir in the pumped hydro facility. The low-grade gold mining operation there is slated for closure in 2027 – meaning the project would breathe new financial life into a spent asset, as well as holding interesting rehabilitation prospects for the site.

The Mt Rawdon project is aiming for a pretty decent capacity – capable of providing 2 GW of energy for 10 hours, or, in other words, it will provide 20 GWh of storage. 

The full feasibility study for the project is already underway and is slated for completion by mid-2023.

In the meantime, Queensland’s Coordinator-General has declared it a Coordinated Project, a classing that will help streamline and fast track its negotiations with the state government. 

For the project to be fully realised, a second upper reservoir would also need to be built – though this is something the company’s Executive Chair, Jake Klein, says the site loans itself to. Indeed, looking at Google maps, there is already another sandy looking hole just off to the left of the mining pit. 

The location appears to have other perks alongside the pre-dug open pit, including steep surrounding hills and just 22 kilometres separating it from major transmission lines.

Like all pumped hydro projects, the plan is expected to run into the multibillions – though Klein signalled to The Australian last year that the Queensland government may be interested in acquiring the project, if the feasibility study holds enough promise.

Last month, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk launched the state’s $62 billion Energy and Jobs Plan, which places publicly-owned pumped hydro schemes at its centre. 

As part of the scheme, the Premier announced two major pumped hydro projects, the enormous 5 GW / 120 GWh Pioneer-Burdekin project and the 2 GW Borumba Pumped Hydro project near Brisbane, which has been on the cards for some time.

It appears the state government is still interested in hedging its bets though – or perhaps even developing additional storage sites – especially in light of how difficult it is to find locations for pumped hydro facilities of such scale.

As part of Queensland’s new energy plan, the state is now aiming for 70% of the state’s energy supply to come from renewables by 2032, and 80% by 2035. While these targets are hardly Australia’s most ambitious from a state government, the vision is pretty significant in that it represents a major U-turn from one of the country’s more conservative, coal holdouts.

According to the Mt Rawdon Pumped Hydro Project’s website, the company is hoping for the facility to come into operations by 2029 – a fairly optimistic outlook. 

While Evolution Mining doesn’t appear to want to actually develop or own the project itself, it is planning to use the renewable electricity potentially generated in its Mt Rawdon pit to decarbonise its mines – of which there are currently five, including the Cowal gold mine in New South Wales, Ernest Henry in Queensland, Mungari in Western Australia, and Red Lake in Ontario, Canada.

Your mine does not have to be a gold one to be useful for energy storage, as I heard not long ago from Peter Schubert at Indiana University, which is looking at abandoned coal mines in the region as pumped hydro storage sites.


2 Responses to “This Energy Storage Plan is a Gold Mine. No, Really.”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Queensland is the part of Australia that is not short on water.

  2. John Oneill Says:

    ‘.. the enormous 5 GW / 120 GWh Pioneer-Burdekin project…’
    The Lake Onslow pumped hydro scheme, in New Zealand’s South Island, will have forty times as much storage as that – 5 terawatt hours. That’s for a country that already gets 60% of its electricity from hydro, and 20% from geothermal.. Queensland has 75% from coal, about 10% on average from solar, the same from gas, about 3% from wind, and about 2% from hydro. Minimum power demand overnight is about 5GW, so Pioneer-Burdekin could almost keep the state running (if they put in about 8x as much solar as at present to charge it), but with no allowance for extra demand or adverse weather – or winter, really.

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