How to ensure the world’s largest pumped-hydro dam isn’t a disaster for Queensland’s environment

To quit coal and move to renewables, we need large-scale energy storage. That’s where pumped hydro comes in. Queensland’s ambitious new plan involves shifting from a coal-dominated electricity grid to 80% renewables within 13 years, using 22 gigawatts of new wind and solar. The plan relies on two massive new pumped hydro developments to store electricity, including the biggest proposed in the world.

While it sounds high-tech, it’s very simple: take two dams at different elevations. Pump water to the top dam when cheap renewables are flooding the grid. Run the water down the slope and through turbines to make power at night or when the wind isn’t blowing.

When dams are built badly, however, they can trash the environment. For two decades, I’ve pointed out the environmental destruction conventional dams can cause. But now we urgently need more pumped hydro dams to enable Australia’s transition to fully renewable power.

How to ensure the world’s largest pumped-hydro  dam isn’t a disaster for Queensland’s environment

The campaign to save Lake Pedder (pictured in 1954) from being flooded for hydroelectricity failed – but made new large scale hydro dams less viable. Janette Asch/Flickr, CC BY

Queensland is getting pumped

Queensland’s huge new renewable energy plan relies heavily on two massive pumped hydro projects. Inland from the Sunshine Coast is Borumba Dam, which could deliver two gigawatts of 24-hour storage by 2030. This was first proposed last year. The new proposal is Pioneer-Burdekin, west of Mackay, which is intended to store five gigawatts of 24-hour storage from the 2030s. It would involve relocating residents of the small town of Netherdale, which would be inundated.

For consumers, this means energy reliability. Each gigawatt of stored power could supply around two million homes – and Queensland has around two million households.

Environmentally, the good news is we can learn from previous mistakes and build this vital infrastructure carefully to minimise local environmental damage and maximise the broader environmental benefit of quitting coal power.

How to ensure the world’s largest pumped-hydro  dam isn’t a disaster for Queensland’s environment

The world’s largest pumped hydro facility is planned for the Pioneer Valley, west of Mackay. Steven Penton/Flickr, CC BY

Why is pumped hydro so important to the energy transition?

Solar and wind power can produce vast quantities of cheap power – but not all the time. Pumped hydro is one way to store renewable energy when it’s being generated and releasing it later when needed.

While grid-scale batteries such as Victoria’s Big Battery have drawn plenty of media coverage, they are better at storing smaller amounts of electricity and releasing it quickly. Pumped hydro is slightly slower to start feeding back to the grid, but big facilities can keep generating power for days.


Renewable fuels such as green hydrogen and ammonia may be available in the future, but not now. Nuclear energy is very expensive and would take decades to build. Batteries cannot meet supply gaps longer than a few hours, and come with environmental costs from the mining of raw materials, manufacture, and recycling and disposal of toxic materials.

That leaves pumped hydro as a vital option – especially on cold, still and overcast days in winter when solar and wind produce very little electricity.

So why is pumped hydro a better environmental prospect?

Conventional hydropower dams destroy river ecosystems and flood forests, towns and prime farm land. Globally, the hydropower industry anticipates expanding by 60% by 2050 to provide renewable electricity and storage.

I’m less worried about pumped hydro, for three reasons.

First, the two reservoirs can be built away from rivers. This alone greatly reduces the damage done by damming rivers and flooding fertile valleys.

Second, the area flooded is generally an order of magnitude smaller than conventional hydropower. This is because the great elevation difference between the two reservoirs may enable more power to be generated from limited water.

And third, pumped hydro doesn’t need much extra water once filled, as the water cycles around. A little topping up to replace losses from evaporation and seepage is all that’s needed.

More than 3,000 potential sites for pumped hydro have been identified in Australia. Importantly, these are all outside formal nature reserves and mostly located along the Great Dividing Range. We’d only need around 20 of these sites to be developed to store power for the nation. That’s around the same number currently planned, built or under construction in Tasmania, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland.

Nearly all large renewable energy developments meet local opposition based on non-financial values. Opponents of big pumped hydro developments such as Snowy 2.0 have called for other sites to be developed instead.

If we took this approach, however, we could multiply the environmental disruption. That’s because Snowy 2.0, as well as the proposed Borumba and Pioneer-Burdekin projects in Queensland are huge. They could each generate up to ten times more power than most of the other projects being planned elsewhere.

Shifting elsewhere could mean many more smaller projects, which means more roads, transmission lines and reservoirs.

How to ensure the world’s largest pumped-hydro  dam isn’t a disaster for Queensland’s environment

Pumped hydro relies on two reservoirs at different elevations, as visible in the Turlough Hill pumped hydro scheme in Ireland. Shutterstock

Avoiding the mistakes of the past

Environmental disruption from pumped hydro differs greatly depending on the site.

At the site selection stage, it’s vital to avoid areas of high conservation and Indigenous cultural value.

We can limit environmental damage by using existing dams, as we’re seeing at Snowy 2.0. Old mines in the right locations can have a second life as pumped hydro, as the Kidston project in Queensland demonstrates.

By using existing dams or mines, we can actually begin repairing past damage, such as by improving old dams to boost environmental flows.

That’s not to say damage won’t be done. Pumped hydro has been linked to the introduction of diseases affecting wildlife, as well as invasive plant and animal species.

Roads and transmission lines are one of the biggest impacts on the natural world. By my calculations, much more habitat will be cleared for the Snowy 2.0 overhead transmission lines (around 9,600 hectares) than the new hydro scheme road and pipeline access and waste rock disposal (around 1,000 hectares).

We could dramatically reduce environmental damage and visual clutter by putting the lines underground, or building close to existing power lines.

So, the choice is ours. While pumped hydro is a lot less damaging than traditional hydroelectricity, it will cause some environmental damage.

That’s why pumped hydro developers must choose sites and build carefully, to minimise environmental damage and maximise the benefits of storage. After all, this technology offers the enormous environmental good of freeing ourselves from the need to burn coal, gas and oil every hour of every day.

News Related

OTHER NEWS

Sea urchins have invaded Tasmania and Victoria, but we can’t work out what to do with them

While crown-of-thorns starfish on the Great Barrier Reef have long been ecological villains in the popular imagination, sea urchins have mostly crawled under the national radar – until now. Long-spined ... Read more »

How to Choose the Best Outdoor Security Cameras for Your Smart Home

Smart security cameras are not made equal: some are best used inside the house, while others are rugged and can work regardless of rain, sun, or snow. If you already ... Read more »

Microsoft Raising Prices on New, First-Party Games in 2023 - IGN Daily Fix - IGN

On today’s IGN The Daily Fix: Xbox is preparing to join other major game publishers in raising the prices of its major new first-party titles from $60 to $70. CD ... Read more »

How To Backup Google Drive? Best Ways To Keep Your Data Secure

Key Takeaways Google Drive is a cloud storage service that lets you keep a backup of all your data. It is vital to backup Google Drive data as there is ... Read more »

How to find your Spotify Wrapped

How to find your Spotify Wrapped One of the more popular end-of-year items this year (and many of the past few years) is Spotify Wrapped, where the music service puts ... Read more »

China: Artificially-Made 'Nuclear Island' Brings New Reactor, Construction Starts

There is a new Chinese island that will appear on the map and bring the Hainan province power for its entire region, and it is with the artificially-made “Nuclear Island” ... Read more »

How to get Rotom Sparks in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet

Screenshot by Gamepur Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are filled with ingredients for you to find and collect as you explore the cast reaches of the Paldea region. The materials that ... Read more »

There’s an eyebrow mistake which makes you look older – loads of people do it, here’s how to fix it

GETTING older doesn't mean you can't keep on top of beauty trends. But not all trends are going to work for you as you age, especially this major eyebrow mistake. ... Read more »

How to get Snover Berries in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet

Screenshot by Gamepur There are a lot of different materials and ingredients for you to find as you explore the Paldea region in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. Snover Berries are ... Read more »

How to get Drifloon Gas in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet

Screenshot by Gamepur Gathering various resources to make TMs in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet can be a task that takes a long time, especially if that Pokémon that gives the ... Read more »

Dixmoor Failed to Correct Deficiency, Illinois EPA Says; Village Working to Fix Problem

Dixmoor has been plagued by water issues for more than a year now. Read more »

Get Your Professional Sim Racing Fix with Topspeed at Funan!

The Topspeed team is attempting to do simulator racing at a scale never before seen in Singapore. This resource-intensive approach aims to spread awareness about e-Motorsports locally. It also provides ... Read more »

How to Fix “Dump File Creation Failed” Error in Windows

Whenever Windows crashes, it “dumps” all log data into an appropriately named dump file. But what are you supposed to do when even the dump file creation fails? Let’s find ... Read more »

How to get food in Dwarf Fortress

Screenshot by Gamepur Food is a vital resource you will need to feed your dwarves and clans in Dwarf Fortress. Without it, your dwarves will starve, and things will get ... Read more »

How to get drink in Dwarf Fortress

Screenshot by Gamepur Drink is one of the critical components you will need to acquire in Dwarf Fortress. Without it, your dwarves will struggle to survive as they endlessly carve ... Read more »

‘Invisible pain is something you can’t speak about’: why we need to admit that mental pain affects us physically, and how to relieve it

Denise Tam was 26 when she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Alongside her treatment, she looked into how foods can help heal the body. After changing her diet and ... Read more »

How to play with friends in Need for Speed Unbound

Screenshot via Need for Speed YouTube In addition to the single-player campaign in Need for Speed Unbound, EA and Criterion have allowed users to explore the world of Lakeshore City ... Read more »

Loss, decay and bleaching: why sponges may be the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for impacts of marine heatwaves

Marine sponges were thought to be more resilient to ocean warming than other organisms. But earlier this year, New Zealand recorded the largest-ever sponge bleaching event off its southern coastline. ... Read more »

How to catch Galarian Farfetch’d during the Mythic Blade event in Pokémon Go

One of the Pokémon you need to find during Pokémon Go’s Mythic Blade event is Galarian Farfetch’d. It’s a Fighting-type Pokémon and distinctly different from the Farfetch’d you can encounter ... Read more »

How to evolve Petilil into Lilligant in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet

Image via The Pokémon Company When it comes to filling out your Pokédex in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, you will need to figure out how each of your creatures evolves. ... Read more »

How to control three SAM Sites simultaneously in Warzone 2 DMZ

Screenshot by Pro Game Guides In Call of Duty: Warzone 2 DMZ, players can capture a SAM Site to destroy any passing aircraft, forcing them to release their supply drops. ... Read more »

How to unlock safehouses in Need for Speed Unbound

Image via EA Safehouses are a vital part of the single-player campaign in Need for Speed Unbound. The name of these facilities are self-explanatory, as each provides shelter from cops ... Read more »

How to destroy seven vehicles in close succession in Warzone 2 DMZ

Screenshot by Pro Game Guides Faction Missions give the player a purpose to play and grind Call of Duty: Warzone’s DMZ game mode. As you progress through tiers of various ... Read more »

Clashing laws need to be fixed if we want to live in bushfire-prone areas

It’s almost bushfire season. Yes, even though floods are still racing through parts of eastern Australia. Fire conditions are above average including in inland New South Wales and Queensland. When ... Read more »

Companies spy on your email with invisible images – here’s how to stop them

If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, BGR may receive an affiliate commission. Companies spy on your email with invisible images – ... Read more »

The green digital consumer: How to reduce your digital exhaust

The global infocommunications sector contributes about 2 per cent to 4 per cent of global carbon emissions, according to a study done by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic ... Read more »

How to get Bloody Tokens in World of Warcraft: Dragonflight

As the Dragon Isles emerge from the mists in World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, new currencies are also arriving. Some new currencies, such as Bloody Tokens, are only available under certain ... Read more »

How to evolve Applin into Appletun in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet

Screenshot by Gamepur There is no shortage of useful Dragon Pokémon that you can find in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. From the legendary rideable Koraidon and Miraidon to the mainstays ... Read more »

How to make a Crossbow Arbalest in Valheim

Screenshot by Pro Game Guides The Arbalest is a ranged weapon that functions as a crossbow in Valheim’s Midland update. Arbalests also feature decent Pierce and Knockback damage, thus making ... Read more »

Portugal vs Switzerland live stream: How to watch World Cup fixture online and on TV

Portugal and Switzerland meet in the last 16 of the Qatar World Cup, with a quarter-final against Spain or Morocco on the line. Portugal finished atop their group after beating ... Read more »

How to complete the Mythic Blade Collection Challenge in Pokémon Go

Image via Pokemon Go YouTube The Mythic Blade event has come to Pokémon Go, and with it, a Collection Challenge that all players can complete. The Collection Challenge will have ... Read more »

How President Ramaphosa’s plan to fix South Africa’s rail network has derailed

It has been more than a year since President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a plan to fix Transnet’s crumbling and unreliable rail network by allowing private sector players to participate and ... Read more »

Robbie Williams tickets: how to get a ticket to Sandringham Estate 2023 show, presale details - is he on tour?

Robbie Williams is back on the road – only this time he’s playing somewhere that may be a bit surprising. The former Take That singer will play Sandringham Estate next ... Read more »

How to get the Shockwave Hammer in Fortnite

The Shockwave Hammer in Fortnite is a versatile new weapon introduced in Chapter 4 and one that can change the outcome of your battles when used the right way. Where ... Read more »

Covid-19 Can Live on These 5 Grocery Items for Days—Here's How to Consume Them Safely

At the height of the pandemic, Americans across the country were wiping down their groceries with antibacterial wipes for protection from Covid-19. And it turns out, we now know that ... Read more »

How to catch Crabrawler in Pokémon Go

Image via The Pokémon Company The Mythic Blade event in Pokémon Go introduces Keldeo, and Crabrawler is making its debut in the game. The Mythic Blade event is the first ... Read more »

How to get all collectibles in Need for Speed Unbound

Image via EA Need for Speed Unbound features a large quantity of different collectibles that can be found throughout the map. The open-world game offers a number of ways to ... Read more »

How to get the Mawizeh Resort Main Building Key in Warzone 2 DMZ

Screenshot by Pro Game Guides Mawizeh Resort Main Building is a locked point of interest in Call of Duty: Warzone 2 DMZ. The building contains high-tier loot and can only ... Read more »

How to know if your government identification card complies with REAL ID standards

U.S. air travelers now have until May 7, 2025, to obtain a driver’s license or other government ID that complies with the federal REAL ID Act. How do you know ... Read more »

ChatGPT Is an Impressive AI Chatbot That Can’t Stop Lying

Artificial intelligence projects like Stable Diffusion are getting better at approximating what humans might create, but still can’t actually think or check information all that well. Case in point: the ... Read more »
Breaking thailand news, thai news, thailand news Verified News Story Network