Queensland looks to extra hydropower from water storage after reboot of Somerset Dam

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Queensland explores potential to convert state’s water storage dams into hdyro-power generators, after switching back on Somerset Dam and Hydro Electric Plant.

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The Queensland government is exploring the potential to convert more of the state’s water storage dams into renewable energy generators, after returning to service a larger, restored version of its Somerset Dam and Hydro Electric Plant.

State energy minister Anthony Lynham said on Monday that a major refurbishment had been completed at the Somerset facility, which had this month resumed producing hydro-electricity.

The $11 million project restored the dam after it was damaged in floods in 2011, and again 2013, and boosted its generation capacity from 3.2MW to 4.1MW.

The refurbishment included redesigning the original turbine to increase output and efficiency, and installing a new generator and control system to provide reliability and remote operation.

“Somerset Dam will remain one of the region’s major drinking water storages with the added benefit of being able to produce green energy for south east Queensland,’’ Dr Lynham said.

A study had also been commissioned, he added, to assess the technical and economic feasibility of hydro generation across all of the state government-owned dams in south east Queensland.

“This about looking for renewable energy opportunities aimed at reducing operational costs and reducing the overall environmental footprint,’’ Dr Lynham said.

“The study will examine sites for traditional hydro-electric plants at existing dams as well as the feasibility of larger pumped hydro storage.

“Electricity is the largest single cost to the production of drinking water. Seqwater believes there are significant opportunities available to offset electricity costs by increasing its renewable energy generation and by optimising energy consumption.

“Seqwater estimates up to 30-40 pr cent of its annual energy consumption could be provided by renewable energy it generates over the next decade or so.

“In turn this can help reduce the costs of water treatment and the supply of drinking water to businesses and households.’’

“It also, conceivably, could put downward pressure on electricity prices as more and more renewable energy – solar and hydro – comes on line.’’

The announcement comes amid concerns that Queensland is falling behind on its large-scale renewable energy build-out, and is headed for only 25 per cent renewables for the state’s grid by 2030, instead of the targeted 50 per cent

As Giles Parkinson reported on Friday, a major contributor to this bleak outlook has been the Labor government’s new law that allows only licensed electricians to handle, carry and mount the half million or more heavy modules needed for a good size solar project.

On top of that, a long-awaited auction for 400MW of wind or solar and storage promised by the government back in mid 2017 has remained stalled, while plans for a major new transmission link and a “clean energy hub” for the north of the state have also gone quiet.

In comments this week, Dr Lynham named hydro as a key facet of the government’s election commitment to set up new-publicly owned generator – CleanCo.

“CleanCo’s foundation generation assets will include Wivenhoe – which produces 570MW of pumped storage hydro-electric power,’’ he said.

The government said the hydrogeneration feasibility study was expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

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