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650m euro Silvermines Hydro Electric Power Station project launched by Environment Minister Alan Kelly

Published on Wednesday, 13 Jan 2016

Project will generate 360MW of electricity – enough for 200,000 households

Monday, January 11, 2016:  Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government Alan Kelly has today launched plans for a 360 megawatt, zero emission Co. Tipperary pumped storage hydroelectric power station for Silvermines, Co. Tipperary. 

In a joint venture by European construction and technology companies STRABAG GROUP (Austria), ANDRITZ HYDRO (Austria), Irish construction company ROADBRIDGE and developer SIGA HYDRO, the Silvermines Hydro Electric Power Station Project will be the second of its kind in the country, along with the ESB’s Turlough Hill (292MW) facility.  The plant will be developed from the existing disused open-cast mining site, where operations ceased in 1993, south of Silvermines village in North Tipperary.   

The process begins with a detailed feasibility assessments and consultation programme with the local community before moving to an 18 month to two year planning process later this year.  The four-year construction phase will create up to 400 jobs, the bulk of them locally, with up to 50 permanent jobs at the plant thereafter.  The overall value of benefits flowing into the national economy will exceed 2.5bn euro over the lifetime of the plant. 

Significantly from a local perspective, the project will not alone be a zero emission hydro electric power station but will also greatly advance the environmental rehabilitation of the area, with water in the existing reservoir set to be decontaminated, ending the seepage of harmful minerals into local water tables.

Announcing the plans, Environment Minister Alan Kelly today said,  “This announcement is a pivotal announcement for Silvermines, for the wider North Tipperary area and, indeed, the country.  For Silvermines it will transform the mining legacy here from an environmentally hazardous to a positive one, as well as trigger very significant and sustainable investment and employment in the local community.

“From a wider Tipperary perspective it will generate a huge windfall in the construction phase, with 400, mostly local, jobs alone in construction and, thereafter, ongoing sustainable on-site jobs.  From a national perspective, it will significantly advance Ireland’s transition to a low carbon economy, with 360MW of electricity generated for this renewable source five hours each day.  This will be enough to supply 200,000 homes – more than three times the total number of households in Tipperary. “

“With Ireland’s evolving electricity demands, we will need a more efficient, reliable, stable and more environmentally aware system than ever before that is capable of servicing software developments, datacenters and other technological industry. Projects like this are essential to generating inward investment and making Ireland attractive for employment in the future. I am glad companies such Andritz Hyrdro are continuing to show their commitment to investing in this country,”

Projects like this will also assist Ireland in fulfilling its COP21 obligations and eliminating the use of fossil fuels and energy storage is essential to this.

The Silvermines Hydro Electric Power Station will generate electricity during high demand periods as water from a higher elevation reservoir is released to a lower reservoir, flowing through giant turbines in the process.  It is then pumped back up to the higher reservoir during low electricity demand periods.

The brownfield nature of the selected site, with already one reservoir in place in the 70m deep open-cast mine, means the Silvermines Hydro Electric Power Station can be developed and constructed with minimum impact and provide environmental enhancements, planning gain and community benefits – in addition to zero emissions electricity.  It also has close proximity to the national grid network, thereby avoiding the need for any new overhead electricity pylons.

Project Director and SIGA Hydro Managing Director Mr. Darren Quinn said,  “This is a once-off opportunity to help remediate and clean up this giant abandoned mining site by creating a new land use, something that will benefit the entire nation.  It also provides a link between the mining heritage and a sustainable future for the Silvermines area.” 

Mr. Martin Ullrich, Director, Strabag Renewable Division said, “The key criteria in selecting the Project site were the topographic suitability, short grid connection distance, sufficient water availability, minimum impact on the environment and on cultural heritage and the opportunity that the project presents to offer tangible planning gain.”

ANDRITZ HYDRO Senior Vice President Mr. Alexander Schwab stated, “ANDRITZ HYDRO, as a technology partner, will provide state-of-the-art know-how for optimizing the whole power system to the urgent necessities of the Irish grid. Pumped storage technology is the economical and environmental friendly means to store electric power, thus balancing the volatile nature of other renewable generation.  In addition, a pumped storage facility like Silvermines will provide a valuable array of grid services contributing to enhanced reliability and stability of the whole electricity system’’

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