AN information session will be held next month in Bathurst as a proposed pumped hydro project near Yetholme moves closer to getting the go-ahead - or not - from the NSW Government.
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The project - which will involve the construction of two dams and will need an initial 3.3 gigalitres of water from the Fish River, drawn gradually - will cost approximately $500 million, according to ATCO, the company behind it.
Unhappy citizens held a public meeting at O'Connell a couple of weeks ago to discuss their concerns about the Yetholme proposal, but ATCO is preparing to hold its own information sessions after the release of an environmental impact statement for the project.
ATCO Australia, a subsidiary of a Canadian company, is proposing to build one dam for the project at the top of Mount Tennyson, near Yetholme, and the other in a nearby valley.
They would be connected by a large pipe, and generators and pumps would be submerged in the lower dam.
Water for the project would be drawn from the Fish River a few kilometres before O'Connell and connection to the grid would be by an underground cable to an existing 330kV transmission line.
According to ATCO, pumped hydro works like a large battery, pumping water to an upper reservoir when there is an excess of renewable energy and storing this water so it is ready to be released to generate energy at the times of the day it is most needed.
O'Connell resident Sandy Bathgate believes that if the project goes ahead, "it will be a disaster for the Fish River and Bathurst".
"Not a single irrigator will sell their water rights to ATCO," he said.
While filling the dams will require an initial 3.3 gigalitres of water, the annual requirement to account for evaporation and seepage is 400 megalitres - or 160 Olympic swimming pools.
ATCO says that it will be legally restricted to only taking water when the flow exceeds any requirements for irrigators or river quality.
Other environmental concerns about the project include the hectares of forest that will need to be cleared for the construction of the two dams and the blasting at the top of Mount Tennyson for the construction of the upper dam.
If given approval for the project from the NSW Government, ATCO anticipates that construction will start in 2023 and it will be completed and commissioned in 2026.
ATCO's public information sessions on the Yetholme pumped hydro project will be held in Bathurst on September 23, Yetholme on September 24 and O'Connell on September 25.
The environmental impact statement is expected to be released in mid-September.
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