Plans to turn a disused mine into an electricity power station were announced in Co Tipperary yesterday.
A 360MW hydro facility will be developed on the old Silvermines site near Nenagh.
Water will be stored in a massive reservoir on a hillside above the former open cast mine and then released into turbines.
In a joint venture by European construction and technology companies and Roadbridge, 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.
The project, which has been worked on for six years, will involve an investment of €650m in what is one of the largest ever private infrastructure spends in the county.
It begins with a detailed feasibility assessments and consultation programme with the local community before moving to a planning process later this year expected to last 18 months to two years.
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 over the lifetime of the plant.
From a local perspective, the project will not alone be a zero-emission hydroelectric powerstation 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.
Environment Minister Alan Kelly said it was “a pivotal” project for north Tipperary.
“From a national perspective, it will significantly advance Ireland’s transition to a low carbon economy,” he said.
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 hydroelectric powerstation can be developed and constructed with minimum impact.
“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,” said SIGA Hydro managing director Darren Quinn.
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