Transforming the region: Underground Pumped Hydro Energy Storage

Tuesday, 11 January 2022

A University of Newcastle research team has been awarded $615,000 to assess the feasibility of turning disused underground coal mine workings into a lower reservoir for Underground Pumped Hydro Energy Storage (UPHES). UPHES is considered a first-of-its-kind, and as such, several geotechnical questions need to be answered before validating the concept.

A research team in front of the custom-build large-scale permeameter

Principal Investigators Professor Stephen FityusAssociate Professor Klaus ThoeniProfessor Anna Giacomini and Professor Olivier Buzzi, from the Priority Research Centre for Geotechnical Science and Engineering (PRCGSE) have been directly engaged by Banpu Energy to work on this project and answer some critical technical questions.

The team’s unique expertise will be utilised to deploy a range of experimental testing and numerical modelling techniques to determine the optimal conditions for pre-existing underground mining voids to be used as the lower reservoir for UPHES.

“We are very excited about the opportunity to work on this innovative and challenging project,” says Prof Anna Giacomini, Director of the PRCGSE. “We have a dynamic range of experimental facilities and advanced modelling capabilities that can study practical problems such as these to come up with solutions that will benefit the nation.”

The team is privileged to play a role in helping build a more sustainable world through renewable energy sources. “Pumped Hydro Energy Storage is not a new technology, but the water reservoirs are generally on the surface. In this case, however, the lower reservoir is underground and utilises disused mining voids. This is a completely new concept. It is inspiring to note that this project could form the basis of new UPHES options worldwide” A/Prof Klaus Thoeni said. ​​​​​​​

This project is part of the Banpu Energy Pumped Hydro Energy Storage Project, funded through ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency) and the NSW Emerging Energy Programme. This study is a first-of-its-kind and could potentially lay the foundations for a more sustainable energy future of the Hunter area and beyond.

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The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.