Pumped hydro in Queensland
As the world transforms its energy use, Queensland has the potential to become a renewables and hydrogen superpower, creating new jobs in the growing clean energy economy.
Effective management and planning for this transformation are critical to ensuring a secure and reliable energy future for Queenslanders.
Queensland will need at least 6,000 megawatts (MW) of long duration energy storage as part of a diverse future energy system. Clean energy storage, including pumped hydro and large-scale batteries, will be crucial to secure Queensland’s energy system in the long term.
To meet Queensland’s future energy demand, the Queensland Government is delivery long duration pumped hydro to store energy over days, weeks or months.
As the amount of renewable generation grows, pumped hydro will help match energy supply and demand in our network. While we will need a range of energy storage technologies in our future energy system, pumped hydro is the only technology capable of providing long duration storage for the lowest possible cost.
Developing pumped hydro facilities in Queensland will unlock significant renewable energy resources around our state, create local jobs and support the transformation of our energy system.
What is pumped hydro?
Pumped hydro is a tried and tested technology, accounting for about 97 per cent of energy storage worldwide. It can store a large amount of energy for long periods, making it the perfect backup for other renewable energy sources like solar and wind.
Pumped hydro energy storage is a closed water system that moves water between 2 large reservoirs constructed at different heights to generate and store potential energy.
A pumped hydro generator uses electricity from the grid or nearby renewables to pump water from the lower reservoir into the upper reservoir when energy prices are low. When energy is needed, water is released from an upper reservoir back into the lower reservoir, passing through a turbine.
Watch our animated video to learn more about pumped hydro:
Queensland's energy grid is transforming.
We are moving quickly towards a more renewable and sustainable future.
As we transform, we need to make sure our power system is reliable and affordable for the millions of Queenslanders who use it.
Using more renewable energy means more reliance on the sun and wind to meet our energy needs.
To ensure our system remains reliable and affordable, we need a way to store excess energy from our plentiful wind and solar resources for times when it is needed.
Pumped hydro works with wind and solar energies to operate like a giant renewable battery, providing large scale, long lasting energy storage.
A pumped hydro system creates electricity by releasing water from the top reservoir through pipes to the bottom reservoir.
As the water flows downwards, it spins turbines, generating electricity.
The excess water now in the bottom reservoir can be pumped back to the top for generation to occur again.
Pumping water to the top reservoir, however, uses electricity.
That's where wind and solar energies come in.
Excess wind and solar power can be used to pump the water to the top reservoir and charge the pumped hydro system at different times, like at night, when wind and solar sources aren't generating enough power, the pumped hydro switches on, releasing the water to the bottom reservoir and generating electricity.
Pumped hydro, wind and solar work together to keep the energy network reliable, providing electricity whenever it is needed.
The Queensland Government is committed to keeping energy sustainable, reliable and affordable for all Queenslanders and pumped hydro will play a critical role in our ongoing renewable energy transformation.
Pumped hydro site investigation
Queensland will need a portfolio of large-scale, long duration pumped hydro options to support additional renewable generation development (i.e. wind and solar) and deliver low-cost and reliable renewable electricity for Queensland.
The Borumba Project will be the first long duration pumped hydro to be built in Queensland. We are also undertaking detailed analytical studies to assess the Pioneer-Burdekin project’s feasibility for pumped hydro development.
Both sites were selected after a statewide assessment of potential pumped hydro locations through the Queensland Hydro Study. Engineering, geological, hydrological, environmental and social studies completed in 2022 have confirmed Borumba Dam’s suitability for pumped hydro development.
Due to the long lead times for pumped hydro projects, we will start building the Borumba Pumped Hydro Project to ensure Queensland has sufficient large-scale energy storage capacity needed for the energy transformation.
Together, the Borumba and Pioneer-Burdekin projects could have a combined generation capacity of up to 7 gigawatts.
In September 2022, we established a publicly owned entity, Queensland Hydro, to develop and deliver the large-scale pumped hydro assets that will be the cornerstone of the state’s energy system.
We are committed to engaging with the community and key stakeholders early and often. Every potential pumped hydro site has unique characteristics, and the community can provide valuable insights to give us a detailed understanding of the project area.
We will work actively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, residents, environmental and business stakeholders, and the broader community, throughout the pumped hydro investigation process to consider stakeholder input and feedback.
For enquiries about pumped hydro in Queensland, contact Queensland Hydro on 1800 875 099.
- Last updated:
- 12 December 2023