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We’re a town of world firsts – and here’s another…

Broken Hill is used to being in the headlines for its world first projects.

As the birthplace of BHP, the working week as we know it, Broken Heel, and cheeseslaw, our history is enmeshed with both creativity, luck and grit.

Conceptual rendering of Hydrostor compressed energy storage facility. PICTURE: HYDROSTOR

Those industries, and the events that thrive here, are the ones who embrace the arid isolation and work with what they’ve got.

The news last week that a compressed energy project would receive $45 million from the Federal government, inching it closer to reality, came with a twist to a history of firsts for the region.

The rarity of a significant global renewable project in the heartland of Australian mining, in a disused mine no-less, seems a unique marriage of two industry opposites that is delightful in its irony.

But why not?

Sure, it would be much more dramatic if Hydrostor was setting up in a coal mine, but still, the development offers an opportunity to move firmly into a new era where those making the decisions which will build our future look at pragmatic and creative partnerships, with a firm grip in reality.

In the old mine (location yet to be confirmed to the media) that will house this project, we literally have history embracing the future of energy creation. It’s impressive.

It’s also practical.

As the diesel generators currently used to back-up energy supply to the Silver City move ever closer towards decommission, providers needed to look at alternative sources. And the solution required to walk us into a new era, needed to be one of innovation and reliability.

Enter the fuel-free Canadian renewable solution which, similar to hydro energy production, uses pressure to create power.

According to the experts, compressed air energy storage (CAES) is a way to store energy generated at one time for use at another time. At utility scale, energy generated during periods of low energy demand (off-peak) can be released to meet higher demand (peak load) periods.

Or in Broken Hill’s case – if something happens to interrupt the main power supply, we will utilise the stored power supply to keep industry and community switched on.

We can only imagine what the miners of the last decade would have thought of the solution that’s been found to keep the town running.

There is a great deal of speculation involved in building a mine, and so too, that same innovation and faith is being replicated in this project. Again, this marriage of opposites has a whole lot more in common than they think!

Meanwhile news that Honeymoon Mine will live to produce another day has added an extra oomph to the fortunes of the Silver City.

Who would have ever thought that the global instability created in Russia would have an impact north of Cockburn?

Russian President Putin’s gift to the region will certainly have significant economic benefits to Broken Hill. As the closest service centre to the mine, it’s anticipated there will be opportunity for local employment, as well as the flow-on effect of feeding staff on-site.

The Silver City now has further pressure in the challenge of attracting an influx of skilled workers and having the standard of housing available that will keep them here.
Watch this space.

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