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What is Underground Pumped Hydro Energy Storage (UPHES)?

In its simplest form, UPHES is a battery. It is not a new technology and in fact is probably the most abundant and mature form of long-term energy storage in the world. Dropping water from a high elevation to a low elevation has a lot of in-built energy. If this water is dropped through a turbine, that in-built energy can be captured and then exported as electricity. If the water is moved from an upper reservoir to a lower reservoir it provides the opportunity for a closed loop system, with minimal water losses. If the water is then pumped back to the upper reservoir during abundant, clean energy power times (eg when solar is plentiful), the pumped hydro system essentially becomes a storage of that solar power which can be dispatched when the sun is not as plentiful.

How does UPHES fit into the electricity market?

For decades, NSW has relied upon coal fired power stations to provide cost effective and reliable electricity. However, in the next 15 years 4 out of the 5 existing coal fired power stations in NSW are scheduled to retire. Consequently, significant new electricity sources and infrastructure are needed to ensure NSW continues to access affordable and reliable electricity, that also respects the change towards lower carbon electricity.

Reliability will come from being able to deliver electricity when the market demands it, which is not always aligned with when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. Batteries are a key enabler in providing reliable or “firm” power. In its simplest form, UPHES is a battery, and consequently can deliver the firm power that a reliable, clean electricity market requires.

The NSW government recently announced its Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap; a coordinated framework to deliver a modern electricity system for NSW. It is a whole of system approach to deliver new generation, transmission, long duration storage and firming. UPHES features prominently in the Roadmap, with the potential development of up to 2GW of UPHES.

What is the Project?

The Project is assessing whether old underground coal mines can be used as a lower water reservoir for a UPHES. It is referred to as UPHES – underground pumped hydro energy storage. UPHES is considered a first-of-kind, and as such has several questions to answer to validate the concept.

Consequently, the initial focus of the Project is on research and potentially a pilot-scale trial, to see how coal seams react to water movement, and to determine what types of infrastructure and technology may be needed.

If the initial research and pilot work show an encouraging outcome, the focus will then move towards designing and assessing something of larger (commercial) scale.

Where is the Project located? Why Lake Macquarie region?

The research and assessment will be undertaken at Newstan Colliery, Fassifern NSW. Newstan Colliery is owned by Centennial Coal Company Pty Limited, a sister company of Banpu Energy Australia.

The Lake Macquarie region is home to NSW’s largest capacity coal fired power station, Eraring and numerous coal mines that have supplied fuel for it and its predecessor Wangi Power Station. As such, there is significant electricity distribution and transmission infrastructure already in place, as well as considerable underground mining voids. Eraring is scheduled to retire around 2032; a viable and feasible CMUPHES could become a natural electricity supply transition for Lake Macquarie. This would create a low carbon electricity hub in line with the NSW Government’s touted Hunter Renewable Energy Zone.

Who is providing the research?

The research team comprises academics from the University of Newcastle, specialist underground coal mining consultants Byrnes Geotechnical and hydroelectric engineers from GHD. The research team is led by a highly experienced mining engineer from Banpu Energy.

Who is Funding the Project?

The Project is being funded by three parties;

  • Banpu Energy Australia Pty Ltd (BEN), with Centennial Coal. Centennial Coal (Centennial) owns the Newstan Colliery, the location for the research Project. Centennial is also providing site access and support to the Banpu Energy Australia team as it leads and manages the research Project;
  • Federal Government via Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA); and
  • NSW State Government Emerging Energy Program (EEP)

What is the role of Centennial Coal Company Pty Limited (Centennial)?

Centennial owns the Newstan Colliery, the location for the research Project. Centennial is providing site access and support to the Banpu Energy Australia team as it leads and manages the research Project.

Where will the water come from? Are you using water from Lake Macquarie?

The research involves using small volumes of mine water from Newstan Colliery. Newstan Colliery is an old mine, with expansive underground workings (voids) in multiple seams. These voids are typically flooded with water, and this water is managed by the mine on a daily basis. The research project will utilise some of this water to test how coal seams react to water movement, and to determine what types of infrastructure and technology may be needed.

There will be no impact on the quality of water that is discharged from Newstan Colliery.

What is the timing of the Project?

The research is scheduled to commence in early 2021 with initial results expected by Q3 2022. If the results indicate that a larger (commercial) scale application could be achievable, then the Project will continue and focus on that.

However, there is a long lead time to any larger scale project, and community engagement, environmental assessment and planning applications will be key early, and necessary aspects.

Why 600MW? Is that large?

600 MW (megawatts) is a nominal number. There has been no design completed, as the concept is yet to be proven (initial focus of the Project).

As UPHES itself is not a new concept, there are a range of existing projects that can be referenced and standardised to 600MW. Therefore, reliable details are available for high level cost estimates using 600MW as a reference case, and this was used in applying for government funding.

The real sizing of a UPHES is a factor of the size of upper reservoir, elevation difference and lower reservoir capacity. The true sizing for UPHES will come in the next stage if the initial work shows promise.

What are the benefits of the Project?

The full benefit of the Project will not be known until after the research is complete. However, if the research shows that underground coal mines can be successfully used as lower reservoirs for pumped hydro energy storage, this opens up significant potential for repurposing old coal mines.

From an environmental perspective, using underground coal mines as a lower water storage will substantially reduce the environmental impact when compared to traditional on river/ 2x surface reservoir UPHES. With the use of UPHES as a battery for renewable energy, then low carbon, dispatchable and reliable electricity can be achieved.

From an economic perspective, the construction costs are also essentially substantially reduced when compared to traditional on river/ 2x surface reservoir UPHES.

Should the Project be feasible, it could be highly replicable across many underground coal mine voids that exist in NSW. This in turn could potentially create a “second life” for coal mines and an employment transition opportunity for coal mining towns.

Matt has an amazing eye.

He has fun as he makes you look amazing through his lense. I honestly have never had such great photos taken of me until Matt got his camera on me. Thank you for making it such a great, fun experience.

Mark Gar

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Matt is fantastic in every way!

He got everything we were looking for, was a blast to work with, and is outstanding at capturing the flavor/vibe of each person he works with and making the photos reflect them (same for the vibe of the wedding).

He's the best there is! :)

the new Mrs and Mr Hager

via The Knot

"..Rest assured you are getting exceptional value from a true professional."

I'd be hard pressed to identify a more professional, social, and talented photographer than Matt. His work speaks for itself, so I need not prattle on about it, but his personality will bring any shoot for any event to life - of that you can be certain. Having worked with him most recently at a wedding he was prompt, well spoken, brought life and vibrant character to each moment of the day, and was the most self-driven/directed vendor I managed. Whether you are a bride, groom, random person wanting photos, planner, what have you, rest assured you are getting exceptional value from a true professional. Ioannis S. via Facebook Reviews

"These are, without a doubt, my favorite pictures of myself. Ever."

I have known Matt for years and years and never had an opportunity to do a photoshoot with him. Then it happened: a combination of perfect excuses, coupled with time off and BAM.
Matt did a dual shoot for me. He took pictures that would serve as the image for the jacket of my novel as well as a fantastic array of costumed Hogwarts style poses.
Not only did Matt scout the perfect place for each varying need, he was able to very easily go from capturing a more "serious" and professional image, to something completely fantasy. And every finished photo was a marvel to see.
These are, without a doubt, my favorite pictures of myself. Ever. Matt demonstrated to me exactly why a good, high-quality photographer is leaps and bounds above just "getting your picture taken." It's the little things. Like adjusting wardrobe and fixing a hair that's out of place, for the absolute perfect composition.
It's spending the diligence and time in post-production to deliver a quality of image that is far and away better than anything I ever hoped for.
I was impressed with it all. From start to finish. If ever I need another shoot, Matt will be the one I call.
Jennifer Aqualaney via Photographer Central

"I recommend him to everyone I know because he is the best."

Let me start by saying that you cannot go wrong with an M.G Norris photo shoot. Matt is professional, creative, and flexible and has a wide range of experience. I have worked with Matt on various shoots for over 6 years and I have never been disappointed in the results.
If you’re in the market for a portrait shoot, Matt has a particular talent for putting you at ease and shooting you in a way that your photos turn up all of the aspects you love about yourself and show none of the things you’re self-conscious of. He is fun to work with and his sense of humor brings a sense of joy and fun to being in front of a camera.
Matt captured so many special moments for my family: Wedding photos, family visits, newborn photos and; most recently, a very special birthday party where four generations of my family gathered together to celebrate a great-grandfather, grandfather and my one year old son. Matt drove 4 hours one way to attend this event for us and he worked tirelessly the entire time. In doing so he captured some truly special moments between members of my large family. The photos are even dearer because my son’s great-grandmother passed away only 4 months later, but because of Matt, we will always have these photos of my son with his great-grandparents to share with him as he grows up.

If you have an event coming up, and it is important to you to have a photographer who can truly capture those memories for you, Matt is the photographer you should work with. I recommend him to everyone I know because he is the best.
Catherine L. M. via Photographer Central

"​Matt has done two wonderful shoots for me."

​Matt has done two wonderful shoots for me. The first was a gift from a friend and we worked with three looks. Casual dress, roller derby uniform and gear, and 'character'. Each outfit came out with a unique feel and I was excited to display a select one from each on my wall in my new home. The second was a "Wedding Retake". My husband and I never had official wedding pictures done, and that was what I wanted for our anniversary. We did a location shoot and it was an amazing experience. We came away with a sense of amazement and my husband and I agreed that it was not only fun but made us feel closer (like our wedding day). Matt is easy to work with and his editing and shooting skills are by far some of the best I have ever seen. I would recommend Matt for any of your photography needs be it wedding, fun, party, or character/cosplay. Bethany T. via Photographer Central

"I can proudly recommend this amazing, kind, fun artist to anyone and say this is the sort of person you want behind the camera."

It’s hard to summarize how wonder Matt and his team are, but I’m going to try my best... I should be honest and also say that Matt is a family friend. I mean, that wasn’t why I hired him to photograph my wedding but it didn’t hurt. One of the main reasons is his utmost professionalism. My now husband and I had some significant concerns and questions going into the process. Matt was able to take our concerns seriously and answer our questions in a way which was courteous and honest. He took our priorities seriously but didn’t let us get too bogged down by them or any other details. Matt put me at ease at every step of the way. More than once was I talked down or out of stress because of his calm assurances. He and his team were a dream to work with, helping me feel relaxed and like they were letting me drive the day instead of the other way around. They came prepared to move quickly and to make art, both of which happened. I can’t believe the way things flowed from my getting ready to coverage of my ceremony, all the way to sunset at the reception and the last dance. We had amazing coverage of our whole day which led to over 2000 amazing images which I get to treasure forever. The number of moments which made me cry or helped me crystallize the memories of my wedding were almost innumerable. In fact, our willingness to leave the dance floor and go out at sunset gave us stunning images that capture so much about my spouse and our day together. We should also be frank and say we had two very large families and several small children to wrangle, all of whom were able to take his direction and enjoyed his manner. I got several positive remarks from guests and family members regarding the general amazing-ness of the team of people we had. The turn around for everything was lightning fast and everything came out beautifully, despite his protests about 2 images which I simply don’t understand. I can proudly recommend this amazing, kind, fun artist to anyone and say this is the sort of person you want behind the camera. I didn’t know how much I needed him as a part of that day until he showed up but he really made everything come together for us. Kate B. via the Knot Reviews

Such Kind Words

Shout out to all these wonderful people and their thoughtful reviews!
-MGN Team

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