Mt Rawdon pumped hydro energy storage–Burnett Basin water plan

What's happening?

The proposed Mt Rawdon pumped hydro project south-west of Bundaberg aims to repurpose an existing gold mine to store and generate clean energy.

Project facts:

  • $3.3 billion investment
  • will use the flow of water between 2 reservoirs or dams to spin a turbine and generate electricity
  • potential to generate and store 20 Gigawatt hours of energy
  • construction planned to start in 2024
  • operation planned to start by 2028
  • will contribute to Queensland's 70% renewable target by 2032, as part of the Energy and Jobs Plan.

This project was declared a coordinated project by the Coordinator General on 11 October 2022 and a draft environmental impact statement is currently being prepared by the proponent.

The opportunity

The project proponent is investigating possible sources of water for the first fill of the reservoirs. One option is to temporarily access water currently set aside under the Burnett Basin water plan in the unallocated strategic water infrastructure reserve (SWIR).

The purpose of the SWIR water is to ensure water is set aside to support future development of significant water infrastructure projects, such as dams and weirs. However, under section 40A of the Water Act 2000, the SWIR in a water plan can be temporarily released for ventures of a short-term duration, such as the Mt Rawdon pumped hydro project.

The taking of temporary SWIR water can only occur under a non-renewable three-year water licence. Any water licence granted would also be subject to rigorous assessment and strict conditions to safeguard the rights of existing water users in the Bundaberg water supply scheme and to ensure environmental water plan outcomes are met.

The water would only be permitted to be taken under the following water licence conditions:

  • an approved water meter must be installed to measure how much water is taken
  • the Mount Lawless gauging station must be recording a flow equal to or greater than 2,000 megalitres per day (this flow threshold is higher than all other existing downstream water entitlements)
  • Paradise Dam is at or above the relevant full supply level
  • water must be taken from the impoundment area of Paradise Dam on the Burnett River, within the Burnett Zone GZ of the Bundaberg water supply scheme (PDF, 4.4MB).

As well as the temporary SWIR being a potential source of water for the project's first fill, the proponent is investigating other water sources (for example from the water allocation trade market).

Read more about the role of water in pumped hydro energy schemes.

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