Wednesday, June 19, 2024


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

BATTLE OF THE BATTERY Controversial Pumped Hydro Storage Project Divides Political Parties

By Amanda Wright
Geotechnical drilling has produced “promising results” for the Queensland Government’s proposed pumped hydro storage project at Pioneer-Burdekin, but the project is stirring significant controversy within the community and across political lines.
Following drilling by local Mackay-based company Twin Hills Engineering, investigations by WSP and SMEC have found very strong, coarse competent granite rock, which the Queensland Government claimed is ideal for dam construction, tunnels, and potentially multiple underground multi-turbine powerhouses.
The proposed hydro power station aims to store surplus renewable energy to power Queensland 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 during evening peaks when energy is scarcer and prices higher, a process the State Government says will help drive down prices for households.
The state Government says that this project, if completed, will be the largest water battery of its kind in the world.
To date, 33 boreholes have been completed along with 20 test pits. These tests have revealed two main types of rock at the site, while comparatively, Snowy Hydro has over 20. According to the Queensland Government, the results will help refine the project design to lower costs and improve delivery timeframes, with more data leading to more detailed design specifications and lower risk.
Minister Mick de Brenni highlighted the significance of these findings, stating, "The results of the Miles Government’s investment in detailed geotechnical engineering have delivered the best possible scenario for Queensland’s most important energy project.
“The quality of these core samples upholds the many years of preliminary assessments the Government has done across multiple locations, and is another win for Queensland’s Energy and Jobs Plan."
Queensland Government Geologist, Tony Knight added, “The samples I inspected from the site at a meeting with Minister de Brenni and Queensland Hydro looked to be very strong, competent and solid rock.
“This is exactly the type of rock needed for these projects for strong foundations and stability.
“I look forward to seeing the full data from the investigations.”
Qld Hydro CEO, Kieran Cusack said that the purpose of conducting a range of initial investigations, including geotechnical investigations, is to ensure they have a deep understanding of the proposed Pioneer-Burdekin project site so they can consider all the options and present the most informed business case possible.
“These are important projects for Queensland’s future, so it is incumbent upon Queensland Hydro to be methodical in our approach,” Mr Cusack said.
“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.
“Conducting methodical investigations now to obtain this critical geotechnical data will ensure our initial plans are more robust, which allows for more accurate estimating of costs and timelines for construction if the project is approved.”
However, after months of speculation on where the opposition stood, the LNP has publicly declared its stance against the project.
Opposition Leader, David Crisafulli said, "The government does not have a credible plan.
“They have a multi-billion-dollar fantasy based on the Pioneer-Burdekin pumped hydro project, a project energy experts and environmentalists believe just won't happen.
“Massive cost blowouts on this project will unavoidably drive up the price of power.
“This is a project without direct funding, no approvals, no social license from the local community, it will inevitably lead to higher prices for consumers."
Mr Crisafulli added that there's a difference between responsibly supporting budget’s supply and honouring underway fully funded programs and backing exorbitant thought bubbles.
The LNP has vowed to halt the project if elected, aligning with local voices who oppose the flooding of Netherdale.
The debate over the Pioneer-Burdekin Pumped Hydro Project has created a clear division, with the Queensland Government touting it as a critical step towards renewable energy targets and job creation, while the LNP and many local community members view it as an impractical and costly endeavour with devastating consequences for the Eungella environment.
Advocacy group, ‘Save Eungella’ said that no Queensland politician should support this project.
“Huge thanks and acknowledgement to Eungella's local members (State) Stephen Andrew for Mirani and (Federal) Michelle Landry LNP for supporting our fight from day one,” the group said, acknowledging the politicians who have publicly opposed the project, supporting protestors who have voiced their concerns in Canberra.
Federal Member for Capricornia, Michelle Landry, added that the LNP’s announcement was a win for common sense.
“I’ve been campaigning hard against this nonsensical project since it was announced in September 2022.

“I thank my state colleagues for coming on board to stop the destruction of Eungella and the Pioneer Valley.”

Federal Member for Capricornia, Michelle Landry, supported Pioneer Valley locals at the Reckless Renewables rally in Canberra last February. Photo supplied

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