Queensland investigating whether to develop a 50-MW hydropower facility at Burdekin Falls Dam

Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, announced last weekend the state is investigating whether to develop a 50-MW hydropower project at the non-powered Burkedin Falls Dam, estimated to cost about $200 million.

Palaszczuk said the project is part of a broader $550 million dam safety upgrade that is required by 2035 for Burdekin Falls Dam located in Queensland, Australia.

Burdekin Falls Dam impounds Burdekin River creating Lake Dalrymple, which has a capacity of 1,860,000 megalitres (ML). The proposed improvement would add 2 m to the dam’s height, increasing the reservoir’s capacity by about 150,000 ML. A plan to increase the dam’s height was already being assessed by the federal government under the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund.

“This project is critical for the development of northern Australia,” Palaszczuk said.

The Dam is currently at 101% of its 1,860,000 ML storage capacity.

In December 2014, HydroWorld.com reported power developer, Meridian Energy Australia, shelved plans for the Burdekin hydropower project, citing revisions to Australia’s federal energy policy.

Burdekin is located in the northern region of Queensland and the hydro project would have helped Australia meet its proposed Renewable Energy Target (RET). The RET established goals of requiring 41,000 GWh of electricity from green sources by 2020, but questions with regard to federal support for the plan stymied renewable development.

“The hydro-electric potential in the Burdekin has been talked about since the 1940s,” Palaszczuk said. “It was last proposed in 2014, but the proponent shelved the project amid disarray in Abbott-Turnbull government energy policy, at a time when the Nicholls-Newman government remained firmly anti-renewables.

“Today I’m calling on the Prime Minister [Malcom Turnbull] to work with my government as we develop a Burdekin hydro business case to complement the strategic assessment underway on the raising of the Burdekin Falls Dam by 2 meters to store more water and generate electricity.”

Palaszczuk said the Burkedin project will complement the existing 86.4-MW Koombooloomba, 88-MW Kareeya and 66-MW Barron Gorge hydropower stations currently operating in North Queensland and the 800 MW pipeline of renewable energy projects committed in North Queensland over the last 12 months, a $1.5 billion investment supporting more than 1,400 jobs.

Australia, as a whole, recently announced it is investigating whether to develop several different hydropower projects.

On April 20, Hydro Tasmania said it welcomed an announcement from Turnbull of his proposal for the utility to work with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena) on studying how to increase energy output from Tasmania’s existing hydropower system. Arena is also considering an application from Hydro Tasmania to potentially develop 13 new pumped-storage hydropower projects.

In late March, Turnbull announced a 2,000 MW addition to the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric project, expanding its cumulative output capacity by 50%.

The initiative is being called the “Snowy Mountains Scheme 2.0”, and was created as a more effective alternative to a battery system proposed by the South Australian government.

Turnbull said the expansion will be capable of producing 20 times the 100 MWh projected from the battery, while also increasing energy efficiency and stabilizing supply. 

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Gregory B. Poindexter formerly was an associate editor for HydroWorld.com.

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