Ireland proposes US$948 million 360-MW Silvermines pumped-storage project

Silvermines in Tipperary, Ireland

Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly, on Jan. 11 announced that Nenagh, County Tipperary, located in central Ireland, proposes to construct the €650 million (US$948 million) 360-MW Silvermines pumped-storage hydroelectric facility at an abandoned open-cast mining site.

If approved, the Silvermines pumped-storage scheme will be the largest such project and the second of its kind in Ireland. The facility will mirror the 292-MW Turlough Hill pumped-storage facility in Wicklow on the country’s east coast, operated by state-owned utility, Electricity Supply Board.

The plant will be developed by Austrian companies Strabag and Andritz Hydro in partnership with Irish construction giant Roadbridge.

Construction of the scheme would include a second, new reservoir, and use about 2.5 billion liters of water in a closed-loop system. A 5-meter-thick steel pipe will be used to pump water between the two reservoirs and to an underground powerhouse, according to published reports.

In 2010, after a three-year campaign by locals to prohibit the site from becoming Ireland’s largest waste disposal site, The Courts ruled against developers’ plans to ship waste to the location.

Darren Quinn, managing director of Siga Hydro and the hydro project’s director, said the Silvermines site is ideal for pumped-storage because of its mountainous location, proximity to the existing power grid and the mine’s 200-foot-deep reservoir. However, environmental concerns center on the fact that the reservoir, which has not been used since 1993, must be decontaminated.

Underground lines will link with existing 400 KV and 220 KV transmission lines in the area.

Developers are planning detailed feasibility assessments and implementing a consultation program with the local community.

After the estimated two-year planning process is complete, the plant could begin generating by 2020.

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