Queensland pours $48 million into two pumped hydro projects

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Queensland has announced a $48 million investment as part of the 2022-2023 state budget to advance two new large-scale pumped hydro energy storage projects as the state looks to wean itself off coal-fired generation.

Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick said $13 million had been allocated in the state budget set to be tabled on June 21 to accelerate key technical studies to enable a final investment decision on the proposed 1GW/24GWh Borumba pumped hydro project being developed near Gympie in the state’s south-east.

A further $35 million has been budgeted to advance a statewide search for a site for a second pumped hydro project to support the switch to renewables with storage seen as the key to unlocking Queensland’s renewable energy resources. Queensland is home to eight coal-fired power stations but the state government has committed to achieving zero net emissions by 2050, including a 50% renewable energy target by 2030.

Dick said growing Queensland’s energy storage capacity through pumped hydro, batteries and hydrogen is crucial to fully realising the state’s renewable energy opportunities and contributing to reliability and affordability.

“Renewable energy now accounts for more than 20% of Queensland’s energy generation, and we’re committed to powering that further,” he said.

“Large-scale pumped hydro energy has the capacity to deliver a reliable supply of energy in an economic way.”

Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick, second from right, and Energy Minister Mick de Brenni, third from right, with CleanCo board director Paul Venus, right, and interim CEO Darryl Rowell.

Image: Supplied

Energy Minister Mick De Brenni said the $48 million investment set out a new path to storing renewable energy with pumped hydro to “play a critical role securing the future of Queensland’s energy system with a reliable supply of dispatchable power”.

“As Queensland charges towards its renewable energy target, large-scale storage projects like pumped hydro will enable the continued investment in wind and solar,” he said.

“We’ve already seen $11 billion of investment in wind and solar …. and we will continue to fund more mega projects.

“We are scheduled to deliver at least another 10 solar, five wind farms, three large-scale batteries and one pumped hydro scheme by 2024. This project pipeline will add more than 1,700MW of wind, 1,363MW of solar and at least 300MW of storage into Queensland’s energy system.”

The government’s latest investment includes up to $13 million to fast-track the development of the 1GW pumped hydro project being developed at the 46,000 megalitre Borumba Dam near Gympie.

Borumba Dam was identified as a potential pumped hydro site due to its proximity to the high-voltage transmission network.

Image: Energy Queensland

The state government has already called for tenders for the project, which would feature 24 hours of storage, while work on a nearby 176MW solar farm has also commenced.

“This funding will support detailed analytical studies that will consider the long-term benefits of this proposed large-scale storage project,” de Brenni said. “Powerlink is managing the design and cost analysis, while extensive community and stakeholder consultation will heavily inform all final decisions.”

The Borumba Dam project, which is expected to be operational by 2028-2029, is among a suite of pumped hydro projects being progressed in Queensland.

Sydney-based developer Genex has commenced construction at its $777 million Kidston Pumped Hydro Storage Project being developed at the site of two abandoned gold mine pits near Kidston, about 270 kilometres north-west of Townsville in northern Queensland.

Genex said the construction program of the 250MW/2GWh facility remains on schedule for first generation in Q4 2024.

Melbourne-based consortium BE Power is also pursuing plans to develop a pumped hydro project in the state, teaming with GE Renewable Energy to co-develop the 400MW Big T pumped hydro storage project at Cressbrook Dam near Toowoomba.

The state is also home to the 570MW Wivenhoe pumped hydro facility which commenced operations in 1984.

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