The Wivenhoe Dam Power Station … most of the facility is located underground (Photo: Supplied)

June 21, 2024

Did you know there is already pumped hydro backing up the electricity grid in south-east Queensland?

The Wivenhoe Pumped Hydro Power Station is celebrating 40 years of clean energy generation this year.

The system uses Splityard Creek Dam as the upper reservoir, while Wivenhoe Dam is the lower reservoir in the system.

The Wivenhoe power generator was commissioned in 1984 and is currently Queensland’s only pumped hydro facility, although the State Government has plans to erect a large pumped hydro system in the Pioneer-Burdekin area, and a smaller one on Borumba Dam.

The Wivenhoe power station, which is owned and operated by the State-owned corporation CleanCo, can generate 10 hours of continuous electricity.

It works like a giant battery. Excess energy in the electricity grid during the day is used to pump water from Wivenhoe Dam up to the Splityard Creek Dam.

This takes about 14 hours to fill.

The water is then stored in the upper reservoir until it is required to support energy generation during peak demand times.

The actual power station consists of two circular concrete silos, each housing a 285MW turbine generator, giving a total capacity of 570MW.

Very little of of the 95m tall power station is visible because it is mostly underground and below the level of Wivenhoe Dam.

Wivenhoe Power Station provided a vital back-up to the grid when a unit at the Callide Power Station failed in 2021.

“CleanCo is honoured to be the custodian of Wivenhoe Power Station,” CEO Tom Metcalfe said.

“Our team at Wivenhoe works incredibly hard to keep the power station operating safely and efficiently – I’d like to thank each and every team member, past and present, for their valuable contributions.”

Site manager Herman Porter said his team was proud to operate this unique asset.

“Over 40 years, the power station has become part of the fabric of the Somerset region. It’s not only a place of employment – it’s also a place where technical capability is developed, and lifelong friendships are forged,” he said.

“Our employees are dedicated to ensuring the safe and reliable operation of the power station. Their incredible depth of knowledge and technical skill keeps Wivenhoe running smoothly.”

Former Wivenhoe Power Station technical officer Trevor Lush recalled that workers were initially learning on the job.

“As Wivenhoe was the first pumped storage hydro power station in Queensland and one of only a few in Australia, we were all learning as we went – there were not too many people we could turn to for technical support, especially during the midnight hours,” he said.

“Wivenhoe was originally staffed by five people during daylight hours. The team gradually increased over the years to reach a level where staffing was more realistic and our capabilities increased.

“I absolutely loved working at Wivenhoe Power Station. There was a real sense of camaraderie where everyone was always willing to assist each other.”


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