There has been a change to environmental impact study guidelines as requested by proponents of the off-river Oven Mountain pumped hydro energy storage scheme, in the upper Macleay Valley.
According to project director Anthony Melov, the alterations include the study of an alternative road into the site, which would be located to the east of Georges Junction on the south side of the river.
The previous access plan involves crossing the Macleay at Georges Junction but a section of the Kempsey to Armidale Road known as the Flying Fox Cutting may prove too difficult to deal with during construction. Under a revised plan, the river could be crossed on the Kempsey side of this problem area.
There are other road navigation concerns heading east, like Blackbird Flat.
"We currently believe we can work through those," Mr Melov said. "But the problems with Flying Fox Cutting are substantial."
Another change to the original EIS parameters involves the 12km route of a new powerline to the existing Transgrid electricity network.
Designed for a 60-plus year working life, the battery storage project consists of two modest dams connected by a giant tunnel bored through high-quality granodiorite. At full power the water-powered storage battery would generate 600 megawatts continuously for 12 hours using water stored in the upper reservoir. Significant energy required to pump water back up the 600m of vertical lift would likely come during midday periods when renewables supply the grid with substantial amounts of cheap power.
With older coal-fired power stations retiring - as soon as 2022 in the case of Liddell - there will be a need for other "ancillary services" to stabilise the grid. Mr Melov said the hydro-electric plant would provide inertia from a rotating mass in a similar manner to what is provided by traditional power plants.
Oven Mountain, named for a nearby geographic feature, has plenty of support from government "for a project of this kind," said Mr Melov.
For farming communities in the valley, road access between Kempsey and Armidale - and in-between is their biggest concern. Mr Melov says the finished hydro scheme is expected to be out of sight from Kunderang Station and at 6km upriver from Georges Junction will be invisible to that popular bush campground. A landscape and visual impact assessment will be completed as part of the EIS.
There has been concern from local land holders that the project has Chinese money behind it and Mr Melov is transparent about that, saying Alinta is Oven Mountain's partner and is an Australian energy company with a Hong Kong family-owned parent.
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