Rock solid news for pumped hydro project

Pumped hydro facility. | Newsreel
A pumped hydro project in Central Queensland has received a boost after early drilling work. | Photo: AGE Photography.

The “biggest water battery in the world” will have a solid foundation as drillers found “highly competent granite” during investigation work in Central Queensland.

Queensland Energy Minister Mick de Brenni said geotechnical drilling had produced promising results for the proposed pumped hydro storage project at Pioneer-Burdekin.

Minister de Brenni said following drilling by Mackay-based company Twin Hills Engineering, investigations by WSP and SMEC had found very strong, coarse competent granite rock, ideal for dam construction, tunnels and potentially multiple underground multi-turbine powerhouses.

“The proposed project will deliver the biggest water battery of its kind in the world,” Minister de Brenni said.

He said the proposed hydro power station would store surplus renewable energy to provide power when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.

“The station plans to pump water up the Great Dividing Range when power is plentiful and cheap, before letting gravity generate immense power in the evening peak when energy is scarcer and prices higher.”

Minister de Brenni said Investigations drilled to 850m, yielding 3800m of geotechnical cores from 33 and 20 test pits, to date.

“These tests have revealed two main types of rock at the site, while comparatively, Snowy Hydro has over 20.”

He said results would help refine the project design to lower costs and improve delivery timeframes, with more data leading to more detailed design specification and lower risk.

“I have said all along that this project will be delivered on time, and this is just further proof the characteristics of Queensland’s landscape mean this project will be fundamentally different to that of Snowy 2.0.

“Queensland Hydro advises me that due to the quality of these core samples, it opens up a broader range of options for the project’s design, and may also lead to an improved project schedule.”

Queensland Hydro CEO Kieran Cusack said the purpose of conducting a range of initial investigations, including geotechnical investigations, was to ensure there is a deep understanding of the proposed Pioneer-Burdekin project site so all options could be considered and the most informed business case as possible presented.

“These are important projects for Queensland’s future, so it is incumbent upon Queensland Hydro to be methodical in our approach.

“Our geotechnical investigations have shown very promising, high-strength, highly competent granite throughout the proposed project site. We are encouraged by the results of the geotechnical investigations conducted so far. Our investigations are continuing.”