Development of 1 GW pumped hydro project progresses in Australia


From pv magazine Australia

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the Borumba Dam pumped hydro project has the potential to be the Australian state’s largest pumped hydro station.

Borumba Dam has long been considered a prime location for a pumped hydro facility, with University of Queensland energy expert, Professor Simon Bartlett, identifying the site more than five years ago. Palaszczuk said her government is “prioritizing” Borumba because of its existing dam infrastructure, land access, and location within the Southern Queensland Renewable Energy Zone.

In light of the Callide power station fire and subsequent blackout in May, the project seems to have taken on new urgency. Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen Mick de Brenni said that the crisis “proved” the importance of having pumped hydro as part of a diversified energy mix.

“We were able to ramp up the Wivenhoe Hydroelectric Station to provide critical generation support and stabilise the network,” de Brenni said.

At 1 GW, Borumba would have double the generation and triple the storage of Wivenhoe, he added. The minister believes that if Borumba moves ahead, the Commonwealth should contribute to the capital costs.

“We’re talking about nation building infrastructure,” de Brenni said. “Every other state has had energy projects built by the Commonwealth – Queenslanders deserve their share.”

Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick said the funds slated for making a business case at Borumba would include detailed engineering and design, hydrological modelling, geological testing, an assessment of environmental impacts and community consultation.

“We’re investing AUD 22 million ($17 million) to potentially unlock a multi-billion-dollar construction project that would leverage billions more in clean energy investment and support thousands of jobs,” the treasurer said.

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State-owned electricity transmission company Powerlink has been tasked with undertaking the business case, “given its understanding of the electricity market and experience delivering very large infrastructure,” the Queensland government said. The business case is expected to take up to 24 months, with a submission expected in the second half of 2023.

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Queensland-based community group Solar Citizens has warmly welcomed the news, calling it a “forward-thinking energy storage announcement.”

“Diversifying Queensland’s energy assets is exactly what energy experts have been calling for in the wake of the Callide C coal-fired power station fire,” said Ellen Roberts, the national director of Solar Citizens. “Queenslanders are world leaders in the uptake of rooftop solar. Renewable storage options like pumped hydro and big batteries are smart investments that soak up excess solar energy during the day, making the most of cheap solar energy and ensuring grid stability.”

In the months ahead, Powerlink will start engaging with a range of stakeholders as part of its initial works. These stakeholders include state-owned Seqwater, the Department of Environment and Science, local governments, local communities, environmental groups, and traditional owners. 

“Conservation of national parks and protected areas will be prioritised and Powerlink will be actively working with First Nations and Conservation groups to explore all options and ensure appropriate environmental offsets are identified,” the Queensland government said.

In January, GE Renewable Energy and Australian-based consortium BE Power announced plans to co-develop the 400 MW Big T pumped hydro storage project at Cressbrook Dam, near Toowoomba, southern Queensland. Likewise, Genex Power’s 250 MW Kidston Pumped Hydro Storage Project in far north Queensland is also progressing.

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