Central West Pumped Hydro Project Update June 2024

July 1, 2024

Central West Pumped Hydro Project Update June 2024


The Central West Pumped Hydro Project (CWPH) remains one of the state’s most advanced Pumped Hydro Energy Storage (PHES) project options and an important enabler of Australia’s growing uptake of renewable energy.

For the past six months, ATCO has continued to progress CPWH by further refining the engineering design, conducting preparatory works to further investigate the geotechnical elements of the site, and exploring various commercial pathways to bring the project to completion.

While things seem to be moving a little slower during this time, our key focus hasn’t changed: ATCO is committed to what is best for the Project, to best support advancing to the construction stage and becoming operational as soon as possible, and for the community to see the full benefit the CWPH project will provide.


What are the SEARs?

In June 2022, the Department of Planning and Industry (now known as the Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure) issued the Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs) for the CWPH project, which is a requirement of State Significant Developments such as CWPH.

The SEARs outline the general and technical assessment requirements for the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The SEARs for CWPH had a two-year validity. Recently, ATCO applied to the DPHI for an extension of the SEARs. An extension was granted, extending validity until December 2025.

What does this mean for the EIS?

The extension of the SEARs means that as the developer, ATCO now have up until 10 December 2025 to submit the project’s EIS.

The newly issued SEARs contain updated assessment criteria to include changes to regulations since the original assessment requirement was issued.

The updated SEARs can be viewed here.

ATCO's support of the local community continues

Since 2021, our annual ATCO Communities Fund has offered funding to community groups and Not-For-Profit organisations to apply for sponsorship of up to $10,000 to assist with local community projects and initiatives that align with ATCO's focus on healthy, sustainable, and prosperous communities.

This year, ATCO is thrilled to provide support the following organisations and their very impressive programs:

Life Education NSW (LENSW)

LENSW’s primary objective is to empower children through preventative health and mental wellbeing education to make positive lifestyle choices for healthier, happier and safer lives.

Through support from the 2024 ATCO Communities Fund, LENSW will have the resources to provide 26 free Life Education sessions to approximately 520 children across six additional schools in the Bathurst region that would have otherwise missed visits from Healthy Harold and the LENSW team.

Bathurst Uniting Social Services (BUSS)

ATCO is delighted to be supporting BUSS in providing funding four profoundly impactful community food programs that target vulnerable members of the Bathurst community including:

The BUSS Café, which provides over 1400 meals each year to those in need; The BUSS courtyard gardens; The Frypan Warriors Program, providing weekly cooking lessons with the meals served in the BUSS Café; and the BUSS’ food voucher program, ensuring those in crises have access to food when they most need it.

Veritas House Healthy Meals Program

For 40 years, Veritas House has helped prepare young people, as well as those identified as vulnerable or homeless, with relevant skills to live independently by providing support through different programs.

Over the past two years, ATCO has supported Veritas House to deliver the Healthy Meals Program pilot program. The Program sees a caseworker supporting a young person by planning, shopping, and cooking a healthy, budget friendly meal in the participant’s home each month.

The Healthy Meals Program benefits both the young person and their local community as they continue to share their skills with friends and families.

With the ATCO Community Partnership now in place, Veritas House can not only continue to deliver the Healthy Meals but expand it to provide the service to more participants.

Boys to the Bush (BttB)

BttB is a not for profit, community-based charity that focuses on preventative, early intervention strategies for disengaged young people. The programs have a proven history of being able to engage with and improve outcomes for some of our community’s most vulnerable youth.

The ATCO Communities Fund has previously enabled BttB to provide MENtoring and cultural camps to kids that would otherwise be unable to access support, as they may not have funding through government agencies. These participants have seen improvements in behaviour both at home and at school, whilst also creating connections to their culture by providing access to and learnings from local Aboriginal leaders and Elders.

ATCO’s continued support will fund cultural camps and MENtoring for unfunded program participants in 2024 and 2025, ensuring these programs, and additional respite services, are available to participants that otherwise would not have access to the BttB services.

“The ATCO Community Partnership allows Boys to the Bush to make real inroads, providing consistent access and support to some of community’s most vulnerable ,” said Kathleen Wotton, Community Partnerships Manager with Boys to the Bush.

Bursaria propagation program

The Purple Cooper Butterfly (Paralucia spinifera), also known as the Bathurst Cooper Butterfly, has a tiny wingspan of around 20mm, a flying period of just two weeks a year, and is a native resident of the Yetholme area.

Until recently, the endangered Purple Copper Butterfly was only known to occur in cold climate  elevations of above 800m in the Central Tablelands of NSW, specifically Yetholme, Oberon and Lithgow. However, in August 2021 the species was discovered flying in Namadgi National Park in the Australian Capital Territory.

The butterfly is found only in limited habitats which contain its host plant, the native Blackthorn (Bursaria Spinosa). It also has a fascinating mutualistic relationship with a native species of ant (Anonychomyrma itinerans). The ants attend the butterfly larvae, carrying them around the branches of their host plant to eat, while protecting them from predation. The pupae of the butterfly are also safely stowed away underground in the ants' nest, ready for pupation and emergence. The ants benefit in turn from a sugary secretion produced by the larvae.

A key priority of the CWPH project is to apply native vegetation clearance avoidance and minimisation principles wherever possible, with the aim of minimising impact on local flora and fauna, such as the Purple Cooper Butterfly.

As part of the Biodiversity Development Assessment Report (BDAR) for CWPH, a Purple Copper Butterfly Management Plan will be developed with the aim of reducing impacts on this species. The plan will support the oversight of rehabilitation trials and a range of other measures which mitigate the project’s impact on the species.

One such mitigation plan has already commenced. ATCO partnered with the Lithgow Valley Community Nursery to trial the propagation of Bursaria Spinosa seeds as source plants. The latest round of propagation has been quite successful with more than 100 seedlings germinated. The seedlings will be potted at the sapling stage, with the intention to plant and maintain the young saplings of Bursaria Spinosa near existing Bursaria patches of plants that will be disturbed by the Project at least four to six months prior to disturbance, to encourage replacement habitat patches.

Additionally, the Management Plan will see the translocation of Bursaria Spinosa that may be impacted by construction to nearby areas to salvage plants and their associated host ants. The use of attractants adjacent to planted and translocated Bursaria is planned to facilitate establishment of ant colonies.

The design of the CWPH project has also been modified so that both permanent and temporary construction infrastructure avoid patches of Bursaria where practicable. We look forward to providing further updates about the progress of the Bursaria propagation program.

Thank you!

Thank you to everyone for your ongoing contribution, feedback and interest in the CWPH Project. For more information, reach out to us at centralwesthydro@atco.com. ATCO’s Office at 1-52 Keppel Street, Bathurst is open from Monday - Thursday during business hours. We look forward to welcoming you and having a chat, You can also call 1800 947 979 to speak with an ATCO team member.