A division of General Electric, GE Renewable Energy, has signed an agreement with Australia-based consortium BE Power to co-develop the 400 MW Big T pumped-hydro storage project at Cressbrook Dam, near Toowoomba, Queensland.
GE Renewable Energy’s Hydro Solutions CEO, Pascal Radue, said that the company – which has a portfolio of 400 GW of renewable energy installed worldwide – will work with BE Power to optimize and finalize the design of the plant, assist with financing, and start commercial operations.
“We are really excited to join forces with BE Power at the forefront of the next wave of Australian pumped-hydro storage,” Radue said.
Upon completion, the Big T pumped-hydro power plant is expected to produce enough electricity to meet the consumption of about 200,000 local homes. When pumping, it will provide long-duration, high-capacity storage to absorb excess wind and solar output. It is expected that the facility will provide valuable system strength and inertia to the grid, safeguarding security and reliability, as the Queensland government pushes toward its target of 50% renewables by 2030.
In a statement released when the co-development agreement was announced in late December, GE Renewable Energy said that pumped-hydro projects such as Big T represent the most cost-effective and long-lasting solution for the high capacity, long-duration storage that is required. BE Power Managing Director Scott Walkem said the Big T project “will help facilitate new wind and solar projects and provide firming and grid support services at a critical point in the National Electricity Market (NEM).”
The Big T proposal is one of a number of pumped-hydro projects in the pipeline in Australia with the New South Wales and Federal governments backing the technology to support reliability and reduce volatility in the market with the $4.6 billion Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro storage project having received the go-ahead from both bodies.
Snowy 2.0 will provide 2 GW of fast-start, dispatchable energy and provide 350 GWh of large-scale storage, enough to power the equivalent of 500,000 homes for over a week during peak demand.
The Big T project will help build out the Queensland government’s southern Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) which was identified by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) in its final 2020 Integrated System Plan. The southern REZ – one of three REZs unveiled by the state government in 2020 – is proving popular with investors, as it benefits from strong network infrastructure that can accommodate large amounts of renewable capacity.
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