In the ’70s, my travels quite frequently took me up the New England Highway in New South Wales and through the town of Muswellbrook. At night, I was astonished to see what looked like a massive cruise liner all lit up sitting in the middle of a tumultuous sea of coal. Quite spectacular. At the time, we were all proud of Liddell.
Muswellbrook is a quiet town of about 12,000 people in the Upper Hunter Region of New South Wales, Australia. It has a long history of coal mining dating back to the 1800s. The mines went open cut in 1944.
Dominating the town are two coal-fired power stations — Liddell and Bayswater — dating from the 1970s and ’80s. Liddell is slated to begin closing down next year (despite fierce opposition from the federal government — quelle surprise) and Bayswater may follow. Over 500 people are employed in the mines and the power stations.
The locals are bracing for a shock and were expecting to have to depend on their other areas of expertise for economic survival — horse breeding, gourmet food, and wine production.
But with the creation of the Muswellbrook Energy, Training and Industry Precinct (METIP), the future looks a whole lot brighter. Originally just a pumped hydro project (Bells Mountain), it has expanded to include solar, battery storage, and green hydrogen — a total of four renewable energy projects with related training facilities.
A disused void will provide Bells Mountain with a 250MW pumped hydro facility with 8 hours of energy storage. Energy Estate and Idemitsu will develop a 150MW to 200MW solar PV and associated battery project, as well as a green hydrogen production facility. Energy Estate wants the project to be working at a commercial level right from the start.
Renew Economy, quotes Idemitsu Australia CEO Steve Kovac,
“We have a long-standing commitment to the community of Muswellbrook that is deeply important to us. At Idemitsu we want to do what we can to turn an otherwise empty pit into an exciting new project that provides jobs and further diversifies our portfolio as a company.”
It is great to see another fossil fuel producing and using asset converted to renewables, and another small community saved from economic decline. Now the locals and tourists alike will be able to enjoy their horses, wine, and good food in a cleaner environment, sure of a prosperous and sustainable future.
Featured image: Lidell Power Station, in the Public Domain.
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