To provide a reliable energy source and support the ongoing transition to renewables, intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar, need to be firmed by dispatchable energy sources like gas-fired power stations.
Snowy Hydro is proposing to develop a gas-fired power station at the former Hydro Aluminium smelter site at Kurri Kurri in the New South Wales (NSW) Hunter region. The proposal is to construct a power station and electrical switchyard with capacity to generate 750MW of ‘on-demand’ electricity. The proposed Hunter Power Project – a gas-fired power station at Kurri Kurri – will supplement Snowy Hydro’s generation portfolio with dispatchable capacity when the needs of electricity consumers are highest.
The power station will comprise two heavy-duty, open cycle gas turbines. They are expected to operate on natural gas for the majority of operations, with a diesel back-up system. The proposed power station will operate as a ‘peak load’ electricity generation facility, capable of supplying electricity at short notice as needed. For example, it may be at times of high community demand for electricity, when the supply of electricity from intermittent renewable sources is low, there is an outage at other baseload power stations, or there are transmission line constraints.
Planning and approvals
The Hunter Power Project will go through a comprehensive and transparent planning and environmental approvals process. Snowy Hydro understands that a crucial step for successfully implementing the project will be to ensure public confidence in the environmental assessment and approvals process.
The proposal has been declared a Critical State Significant Infrastructure project under section 5.13 of the NSW Environmental Planning Assessment Act 1979 as it is considered “essential for the State for economic, environmental or social reasons”.
As it is a NSW Government Critical State Significant Infrastructure-declared project, there is a clear and rigorous planning approval pathway that must be followed.
A comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is being developed for each phase of the Hunter Power Project, addressing the project’s environmental, social and economic impacts. The EIS is assessed by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment as part of the approvals process.
The community can review the EIS and make submissions during the public exhibition period. After reviewing these submissions, Snowy Hydro will prepare a report that responds to the issues raised.
The EIS and final reports are considered by the Department when making an assessment and recommendation to the NSW Minister for Planning. Approval from the Minister for Planning is required for Snowy Hydro to begin construction.
It is also likely that the Hunter Power Project will require approvals from the Commonwealth Government under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. A referral to the Commonwealth is designed to preserve and protect areas of environmental significance.
Building the Hunter Power Project
The project is to construct and operate an open cycle gas turbine power station of up to 750MW at the former Kurri Kurri Hydro Aluminium smelter site.
The proposed gas-fired power station would require a new gas transmission and storage pipeline, which would connect to either the existing Sydney to Newcastle Gas Networks pipeline, or a new Sydney to Newcastle pipeline.
Gas would then be supplied to the power station from any number of Australian gas fields that feed to Sydney and Newcastle via the NSW gas transmission system.
If the project is approved, construction activities at the site would include:
- clearing some vegetation to build the switchyard site
- earthworks to prepare the construction areas
- installing underground services
- constructing and upgrading the internal access roads
- installing the mechanical and electrical equipment.
During construction, it is anticipated that heavy loads will be transported via the Hunter Expressway onto Hart Road, leading into the project site. A more detailed traffic assessment will be undertaken.
If approved, construction activities will commence in early 2022.
Frequently asked questions
Why we need the Hunter Power Project?
Large coal-fired power stations are retiring as the community moves towards renewable energy sources like wind and solar. This means that having electricity sources that can produce energy ‘on demand’ are also needed.
What is energy ‘on-demand’?
Energy on-demand is energy that can be produced when it is needed. The Project is to construct a power station and electrical switchyard and will have the capacity to generate 750 megawatts of electricity as users draw down on the energy network.). This ensures energy security as part of the National Energy Market.
How will contamination from the former smelter site be managed?
Since 2016, an intensive, staged remediation program has been implemented across the former smelter site. (Link to Hydro site: Kurri Kurri (hydro.com)
Why is the Kurri Kurri site a suitable location for the Hunter Power Project?
The Project site involves the re-use of land that was previously occupied by heavy industry, the Hydro aluminium smelter. Using the former Hydro site reduces the industrial impact of a new site – with this site transitioning from the smelter to a gas-fired power station. The Project site was selected because it best satisfies the criteria for a gas-fired power station and the infrastructure that supports it, while minimising the potential environmental and social impacts
What workforce and business opportunities will the Hunter Power Project create?
The Project would create up to 600 direct local construction jobs and 1200 indirect employment opportunities in the Hunter region.
Once operational, the Project is likely to employ about 20 local, operational and maintenance staff.
Snowy Hydro has a history of investing in community partnerships that benefit a range of local businesses and activities.
How will Snowy Hydro engage with the community and local residents about the Hunter Power Project?
The Hunter Power Project will go through a comprehensive and transparent planning and environmental approvals process which will involve working closely with the community, local Council and businesses. Keep an eye out on this website for information on how to have your say and information on engagement activities. You can also email email@example.com or free call 1800 570 529.
What environmental impacts are being assessed as part of the project ?
Our preliminary environmental assessment and Scoping Report has identified a range of environmental impacts likely to be associated with the Project. Items to be closely examined as the next step include:
- Aboriginal heritage
- Air quality and emissions from exhaust stacks
- Greenhouse gas assessment
- Soils and contamination
- Surface water and hydrology
- Noise and vibration
A thorough environmental assessment will be developed to avoid, then reduce and mitigate these potential impacts. Information will be provided to the community and stakeholders during the assessment process.
What is dispatchable energy?
Dispatchable, or on-demand, energy is power supplied into the energy grid that can start up quickly to fill the gaps in supply.
Dispatchable energy is increasingly being required for the stability of the NEM. The proposed Hunter Power Project will function as a source of dispatchable energy into the market. It would respond to electricity demand following the retirement of the Liddell Power Station.