Government money will be used to investigate using an underground coal mine as part of a Pumped Hydro Energy Storage (PHES) scheme.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced that it will fund a new technical feasibility study, providing $995,000 in funding to Centennial Coal for a pilot trial.

The project will examine the feasibility of repurposing an underground coal mine just south west of Newcastle at Newstan Colliery. The mine has been in care and maintenance since 2014.

The New South Wales Government will also provide $4.16 million to jointly fund the technical review, pilot trial and further fund the following feasibility study, as part of its $75 million Emerging Energy Program.

The project is ARENA’s first examination of repurposing a former underground coal mine, building upon the current knowledge bank of PHES studies as well as looking at new approaches to assessing PHES developments.

If built, the utilisation of Centennial’s underground coal mine for PHES is expected to bring a lower cost of civil construction works relative to standard PHES projects due to the existence of a lower reservoir, the site already being grid connected, close to transmission lines and access to a secure water source.

These factors could lead to a broad commercialisation uptake in repurposing other disused brownfield sites and coal mines as hydro plants.

Experts say that the mine could support a 600 MW PHES plant.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said repurposing brownfield sites like coal mines represent a significant opportunity for locating pumped hydro energy storage in the future.

“Through Centennial’s study we aim to discover the factors that could lead to broad commercialisation uptake in repurposing brownfield sites and giving them a second life as energy storage facilities to support the growing share of renewable energy in our system,” he said. 

“On top of potentially lower construction costs by using the site, there would be future employment opportunities in the construction and operation of a PHES scheme.”