AN announcement that attracted more interest than most in a year of negatives for Greater Lithgow was the news that the Wallerawang power station will never re-open.
The owners, EnergyAustralia, said the previous plan to mothball the plant until electricity demand increases had been scrapped — together with any future prospects for the plant.
Instead the ageing power station will be demolished.
At the time of the announcement EnergyAustralia’s General Manager NSW Luke Welfare said that while the announcement was anticipated by both employees and the community, it had still been an extremely difficult decision to make.
“We are aware people locally view Wallerawang not just as a feature of the industrial landscape, but as a part of local history,” Mr Welfare said.
The corporation said the demolition would begin once the government approval process was signed off.
It is expected the work will take several years to complete — unlike the old and much smaller A and B Sections that were reduced in relatively quick time some years ago.
The original Lithgow power station at State Mine Gully was demolished in the 1960s, leaving only the concrete foundations and the remains of a punctured water tank that many believed should have been retained for firefighting purposes.
No date has been indicated for a start of demolition at Wallerawang.
Lithgow Council member Wayne McAndrew is now seeking an opinion if any of the power station can be reasonably retained for other industries.
He said that retired power workers with many years experience had suggested that the ‘turbine hall’ could be retained for use by heavy industry, particularly with the advantage of their 100 ton overhead cranes already in place and the proximity to the railway line and highway.
“It’s the 11th hour and possibly too late or even impractical but it’s something that Paul Toole (Member for Bathurst) should be looking into,” Cr McAndrew said.
“Ultimately it would be up to the owners but perhaps something can be salvaged from an unhappy situation.”
Mr Welfare said late last year that decommissioning of the Wallerawang site will commence once detailed plans are approved by the NSW Government and is expected to take several years.
“Consultation with key community stakeholders, including staff and their representatives, will be an important step to ensure decommissioning and rehabilitation of the site is done safely and efficiently,” Mr Welfare said.
WALLERAWANG Power station is a 1000MW coal-fired power station that was built in the late 1970s. The current power station features two 500MW turbines.
The power station last underwent a major refurbishment in the mid-1990s to extend its operational life by another 15 years.
Coal for Wallerawang power station came from mines in the local area, delivered by private road.
Some 75 per cent of the coal came from the nearby Centennial Coal-owned Angus Place colliery, which is currently in care and maintenance.
Wallerawang power station has drawn its cooling water from Lake Wallace and the Fish River scheme.
Water from Lake Lyell and mine dewatering projects have also supplied water in times of shortage.
ACQUISITION AND REVIEW:
ENERGYAUSTRALIA acquired Wallerawang and the adjacent Mt Piper power station from the NSW government for A$475 million in September 2013.
Prior to this it operated both sites under a ‘Gentrader Agreement’ with the NSW government.
On acquisition, EnergyAustralia undertook a review of both plants with the intent to improve productivity as well as optimise capital and operating expenditure programs.
Following this review, in January 2014, EnergyAustralia removed Wallerawang’s Unit 7 from service and placed Unit 8 on a three month recall, meaning this unit could be returned to service should it be required.
As a result, there has been no electricity generation output from Wallerawang since March 31 2014.
A total of 76 employees have since accepted voluntary redundancies and left the company.
Employment guarantees for employees onsite — agreed with the NSW government at the time of purchase — remain in place.
THE DECOMMISSIONING PROCESS:
ALTHOUGH planning is still in the early stages, EnergyAustralia will be working with government and regulatory authorities to develop decommissioning plans.
Detailed plans will require approval of the NSW government.