The State has spent $150,000 on the much publicised Hazelwood Barramundi project. This was obviously planned before Engie decided to close Hazelwood although the writing has been on the wall for a long time. The temperature of the pondage will drop rapidly after the station closes its generators in March which will be the end of this short-lived fishery. Assuming that most of the 5000 fish are caught before the end then each fish has cost us at least $30. This amount of money could have financed an in depth study to utilise the pit and pondage for pumped hydro.
There are a number of options for the pit but most are expensive or grandiose such as the plans for the open cut to become a beautified lake. This lake, it has been suggested, can be filled by diverting the Morwell River for 10 years. This would be an enormous cost to the community and is not going to happen. The option of using the height differential between the pondage and the bottom of the open cut for a pumped hydro, aside from social media and this blog, has not been canvassed or considered seriously. (See article by Dan Caffrey here) There have been a number of objections to these suggestions – there always are. It is possible that there may be problems with the aquifer if a shallow lake at the bottom is needed and obviously this, and all other potential problems, should be investigated.
But much of the work towards a project of this kind could be done within the $70 mil budget for restoration the owners have put aside. It is obviously nowhere near enough and the actual costs of full restoration may be more than 5 times that amount. If the water to fill the mine ‘lake’ for instance was purchased on the open market then even this amount would be insufficient. What is needed is co-operation and co-ordination between the owners and the various interested parties – essential parts of the planning process so evidently lacking.
The priority in the restoration process must be to cover all exposed coal. This does not exclude the pumped hydro project as does the Lake Hazelwood plan. There is also the question of the fate of the power station. To demolish it and remove the asbestos alone is another super expensive project and almost certainly prohibitively so. The more practical, and financially attractive, suggestion is to still use the building. But for what? A museum has been suggested but I like the idea of it possibly housing flywheels to balance grid load in our renewable energy future. In the meantime enjoy your barramundi fishing.