Turning Western Sydney’s coal mining past into a clean energy future


11 April 2024

Sydney’s biggest water storage, Lake Burragorang, could soon help NSW take a big step toward achieving its transition to renewable energy and stabilise electricity supply at peak demand times.

ZEN Energy, Australia’s first 1.5°C energy company, is proposing to turn degraded coal industry land at Nattai on the escarpment above the lake into a clean energy powerhouse, delivering on-demand electricity to the equivalent of 500,000 homes and businesses.

At 1,000 megawatts (1GW), the Western Sydney Pumped Hydro project will be able to store and supply up to eight continuous hours of ‘firming’ energy, essential to stabilise the state’s electricity grid and power prices as it transitions to renewable energy generation.

Located 24km away from Warragamba Dam and drinking water treatment, the project will also be mostly underground: pumping water from Lake Burragorang through tunnels to a reservoir located on the former coal industry land. When demand is high, water is released to drive underground turbines and send renewable power into the electricity grid.

A $1 million per year Community Benefit Scheme will be created and the project will generate 1,500 jobs during construction and 80 operations jobs.

Coal was mined from the Burragorang Valley from 1930 to 1992 and the project site was used as a coal washery, operated by Burragorang Valley Coal, until 2001 and since then undergone rehabilitation. The Dunbier family, which owned the company, is now partnering with ZEN to turn the site’s fossil fuel past into being part of the state’s clean energy future.

Numerous studies, consultation and co-design with Traditional Owners, local residents and other stakeholders will now occur. If all approvals and a social licence are secured, construction could begin in 2027 and be operational by 2031.

Initial studies have established that the project would have no detrimental impact on water quality or cause any change to water levels in Lake Burragorang, including no flooding of the shoreline and surrounding natural environment. This was critical to securing WaterNSW’s approval for ZEN to progress the project.

“The vast water reserves of Lake Burragorang can supply Sydneysiders with clean drinking water and clean, renewable energy as well,” said ZEN CEO Anthony Garnaut.

“Large-scale energy storage projects like Western Sydney Pumped Hydro are key to keeping the lights on and energy prices in check in NSW as our coal-fired power stations age and retire over the next decade.”

“Western Sydney Pumped Hydro marks ZEN’s entry into renewable energy development in New South Wales. This is a key milestone for us as we grow and envision a 1.5-degree world for all.”

Importantly, consultation with key stakeholders, particularly Traditional Owner representatives, has already begun. These will continue as the project evolves and ZEN is seeking to co-design many aspects of the project with local residents.

“ZEN is committed to, and looking forward to, sharing and shaping the project design and its benefits with locals, Traditional Owners, Wollondilly Council, and other interested and important stakeholders,” Mr Garnaut said.


ZEN secures 200 GWh annually in 10yr offtake agreement with RATCH-Australia


8 April 2024

ZEN Energy and RATCH-Australia Corporation (RAC) have signed a 10-year agreement for 200 gigawatt-hours (GWh) annually of renewable energy from wind farms operating in NSW and South Australia.

With the addition of the long-term offtake agreement with RAC, ZEN has marked a significant milestone in its business growth, securing a total to date of 1.5TWh per annum of contracted solar and wind PPAs, and a deeper expansion into NSW.

The new 10-year offtake agreement includes:

  • 20.6 per cent of the generation and LGCs from RAC’s 226.8MW Collector Wind Farm, NSW, delivering approximately 110 GWh per annum.
  • 100 per cent of the generation and LGCs from RAC’s 33MW Starfish Hill Wind Farm at Cape Jervis, South Australia, delivering approximately 90 GWh per annum.

Collector Wind Farm is RAC’s first project in NSW and the largest wind farm that the company has built in Australia. The wind farm consists of 54 turbines and collectively produces 528GWh each year, which is capable of powering 80,000 NSW homes and saves close to 320,000 tonnes of CO2 emission each year.

Starfish Hill was the first major wind farm built in South Australia in 2003.

Quotes attributable to ZEN CEO, Anthony Garnaut:

“RATCH-Australia is an outstanding example of the sustainability-driven businesses that ZEN is seeking to partner with as part of an eco-system of renewable energy suppliers.

“Bilateral power offtake agreements between retailers such as ZEN and renewable project owners like RATCH-Australia are creating significant and growing demand for utility-scale wind, as well as solar, energy in Australia.”

Quotes attributable RATCH-Australia Corporation CEO, Sahachthorn Putthong:

“There is a strong synergy between RATCH-Australia and ZEN and we look forward to working together in the long term.

“We have shared aims to continue to grow as leading value-orientated energy companies in Australia, similar cultures of caring for the communities in which we operate and commitment to driving emissions reduction.”