Hydrostor the preferred backup for Broken Hill mini-grid

Aerial shot of Broken Hill
Image: Shutterstock

Broken Hill has moved another step closer to becoming one of the world’s largest renewable mini-grids, following the publication of Transgrid’s Project Assessment Conclusions Report (PACR) into securing the area’s back-up power supply.

Transgrid executive general manager of network Marie Jordan said the preferred long-term solution put forward by Canadian firm Hydrostor was “in the long-term interests of electricity customers” and involved Transgrid contracting back-up supply from Hydrostor rather than using diesel generators.

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“Hydrostor is proposing an exciting technology which would establish a mini-grid using compressed air storage in a disused mine, in conjunction with existing local wind and solar generation,” Jordan said.

“This initiative would represent an Australian first and the scale of it is impressive. As one of the largest renewable mini-grids to be created worldwide, we’d expect it to secure supply for Broken Hill and create at least 260 construction jobs and a further 70 ongoing roles after project completion.”

Transgrid has completed the final stage of the Regulatory Investment Test for Transmission (RIT-T) for a new backup supply and, after assessing multiple options, identified Hydrostor’s 200MW/1,500MWh compressed air storage as the preferred solution.

Transgrid’s analysis found the clean technology:

  • Provides the highest net benefit for consumers and a reliable back-up supply for 17,000 people who live in Broken Hill
  • Would be able to store up to 200MW of renewable generation which could be made available to meet peak demand, benefiting existing generator customers and electricity consumers
  • Aligns with the Federal Government’s Technology Investment Roadmap and Low Emissions Technology Statement, which specifically identifies electricity storage for firming as a priority low-emissions technology
  • Aligns with the strategy of Broken Hill City Council to reach 100 per cent renewable status by 2030, as outlined in their Sustainability Strategy 2018-2023 and Cities Power Partnership Pledge.

Broken Hill is currently supplied by one transmission line that runs 250km from Buronga, NSW near the Victorian border. The backup supply to the town is currently provided by two diesel turbines. If the Hydrostor technology is adopted, the mini-grid would supply the town and ongoing mining demand when the transmission line is temporarily out of service for activities like repairs and maintenance.

“As we continue the transition to renewable energy we must prioritise clean energy solutions which support the nation’s goal of decarbonisation and its leadership in the renewable technology sector,” Jordan said.

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Hydrostor CEO Curtis VanWalleghem said, “Transgrid understands the value offered by our A-CAES solution, and we are very pleased to have been selected as the preferred alternative over competing proposals. New South Wales is a global leader with its clean energy policy and net zero ambitions and we are looking forward to commencing our first A-CAES project in Australia.”

The project, if approved by the AER, would be delivered by 2026.

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