GE Renewable Energy signs on to 400 MW pumped hydro project

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A division of General Electric, GE Renewable Energy has signed an agreement with Australian-based consortium BE Power to co-develop the 400 MW Big T pumped hydro storage project at Cressbrook Dam, near Toowoomba.

GE Renewable Energy’s Hydro Solutions CEO Pascal Radue said the company – which has a portfolio of 400 GW of renewable energy installed worldwide – will work with BE Power to optimise and finalise the design of the plant, assist with securing finance and commence 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 the facility will provide valuable system strength and inertia to the grid, safeguarding security and reliability as the Queensland Government pushes towards 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 given the scale of the transformation that the Queensland Government is pursuing, 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’s 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).”

“Being the first new pumped hydro project completed in Queensland in over 35 years, the Big T will help balance the output of wind and solar across the market, ensuring power is available when needed,” he said.

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 as part of a $145 million investment in renewable energy, is proving popular with investors, benefiting from strong network infrastructure that can accommodate large amounts of renewable capacity.

The Big T project earned the tick of approval from the Toowoomba Regional Council in August, with Mayor Paul Antonio confirming BE Power had been invited to proceed to the next stage of the tender process as part of the council’s New Energy Generation project.

“I’m pleased with how the tender process is progressing,” Antonio said.

“We’re in the initial phase of a long-term, multi-stage project and council is excited to be taking steps toward generating energy through its existing land and water assets.

“If the project proceeds to delivery, council will provide access to land and water assets and the successful company will develop the project, including providing necessary infrastructure.”

 

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