Renewable energy for North Queensland could soon become the norm with two colossal hydro-electric power plant projects on the horizon.
The two projects include the construction of a hydroelectric power station in Burdekin Falls Dam, and the Hydro 2.0 project in Kidston, which will both add to the 800MW pipeline of renewable energy projects committed in North Queensland.
The first project is funded by the Palaszczuk Government which will invest in the development of a hydro-electric power station on Queensland’s largest dam – Burdekin Falls Dam – to secure energy and support jobs for North Queensland. The plan is a nod to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s hydro-electric scheme to revitalise the Snowy Mountains.
Feasibility studies on the two projects have returned positive results, bringing in good news for renewable energy in the Sunshine State.
A recent pre-feasibility study has confirmed there are no fatal flaws surrounding the concept of the hydroelectric power station on Burdekin Falls Dam. Minister for Energy, Biofuels and Water Supply, Mark Bailey, also confirmed that a Burdekin Falls Hydro Power Station could be built on the existing dam without impacting the water releases from the dam and with minimal environmental impact.
“Stanwell, which owns and operates several hydro-electric power stations across Queensland, will now prepare a detailed business case for the construction and operation of the hydro-electric power station to be completed by July 2018,” he said. “Subject to outcomes of the business case, construction would commence in 2020.”
The proposed hydroelectric power station, according to the Queensland Government, could generate 150 gigawatt hours, according to the current size, and more if the dam was raised. This is the equivalent of the annual energy use of 30,000 homes,
The largest dam in Queensland, the Burdekin Falls Dam (built 1987) is located on the Burdekin River, 200 km south of Townsville. At full capacity the dam holds 1,860,000 ML, or four times the capacity of Sydney Harbour. The dam is currently at 101 percent of its storage capacity.
Should the power station go ahead, it would complement the existing Koombooloomba, Kareeya and Barron Gorge hydro-power stations currently operating in North Queensland, as well as the 800 MW pipeline of renewable energy projects committed as part of the Powering North Queensland Plan.
Bailey said $386 million had been set aside to strengthen and diversify power and water assets in North Queensland under the plan.
“Pending a feasibility study, we will be investing $150 million to establish a Clean Energy Hub to develop strategic transmission infrastructure in North and North-west Queensland to potentially connect multi-faceted renewable projects,” he explained. “We are pumping $100 million into the improvement of works at the Burdekin Falls Dam and another $100 million to help fund a hydro facility at the dam subject to a business case.”
The second major hydro project is the Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro Project, located on the site of the historical Kidston Gold Mine 270km north-west of Townsville. The project will utilise the two existing mining pits (Wises and Eldridge) as the upper and lower reservoirs for the project to minimise construction time and reduce costs.
The project has now been optimised to support 2000 mega-watt hours of continuous power generation in a single cycle due to the vast quantity of water the pits can hold. Power generated will be sold directly into the national energy market.
During peak power demand periods, water will be released from the upper to the lower reservoir, passing through reversible generators acting in generation mode. During off-peak periods, water will be pumped back from the lower to the upper reservoir with the generators acting in pumping mode.
The Kingston Pumped Storage Hydro Project is a closed loop system which will transfer water from the upper reservoir to the lower reservoir. This will ensure minimal environmental impact during operation to preserve the historical mining site.
The Kidston site benefits from extensive existing onsite infrastructure and materials, mitigating the need for significant capital expenditure normally associated with the building of a large-scale pumped storage hydroelectric generation scheme.