Australian developer steps up plans for 400 MW pumped hydro project


From pv magazine Australia

Melbourne-based BE Power will progress to the next stage of the tender process for the proposed $980 million Big T pumped hydro storage project being developed at the 80,000-megalitre Cressbrook Dam after Toowoomba Regional Council (TRC) agreed to provide the developers with access to council-owned land and water assets.

Toowoomba Region Mayor Paul Antonio said this week the tender process was progressing well and the latest endorsement would allow the council to continue taking steps towards using its land and water assets to generate energy.

“If the project proceeds to delivery, council will provide access to land and water assets and BE Power will develop the project, including providing necessary infrastructure,” he said. The Melbourne-based BE Power is developing the pumped hydro storage project in conjunction with renewable energy heavyweight GE Renewable Energy, a division of France-based General Electric.

BE Power managing director Scott Walkem said the project partners welcomed the council’s latest approval as they progressed work to meet their objectives with construction scheduled to commence in 2023 ahead of commissioning in early 2026. “Having now secured the private land required to deliver the project, we look forward to our continued engagement with the TRC, the state of Queensland, and the federal government’s Underwriting New Generation (UNGI) team as we to work together to deliver the project,” he said.

Walkem said the project would provide long-duration, high-capacity storage, helping to facilitate new wind and solar projects and provide valuable system strength and inertia at a critical point in the National Electricity Market (NEM).

“In an increasingly dynamic power system, long-duration storage (such as pumped hydro) is vital,” he said. “Not only does it help match wind and solar output with actual consumer demand, but it also provides many different grid services required to keep the system stable.

“With significant investment in renewable wind and solar forecast for the Queensland Southern Renewable Energy Zone (QREZ), this project is strategically placed to help unlock the Southern QREZ and ensure it delivers power, jobs and social and economic benefits, not just for locals, but for all Queenslanders.” When generating, the project is expected to provide power equivalent to the demand of about 200,000 typical households.

BE Power expects construction on the project to commence in early 2023.Image: BE Power

Antonio said as part of TRC’s latest endorsement for the project, BE Power would now need to demonstrate its alignment with council requirements around water security, community and stakeholders, plus regulatory approvals.

“Water is one of our most precious resources and the proposed project must not adversely affect council’s water security,” he said. “BE Power must also provide a Communication and Stakeholder Engagement Plan before starting community consultation and project approvals must progress through the relevant regulatory bodies.”

The Big T proposal is one of a number of pumped hydro projects in the pipeline in Australia, including the 250 MW Kidston Pumped Hydro Project being developed by Genex Power in far north Queensland.

The Queensland government has also called for tenders for the proposed 1 GW Borumba Dam pumped hydro energy storage project being developed near Gympie in the state’s south-east.

Further south, the New South Wales and federal governments are pushing ahead with the $4.6 billion Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro storage project. The pumped-hydro expansion of the existing Snowy Scheme will provide 2 GW of on-demand generation and 350,000 MWh of large-scale energy storage.

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