An abandoned gold mine in far north Queensland is set to become the world’s first co-located solar and pumped storage hydropower plant. The 250 MW Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro Project, 270 km northwest of Townsville, is the first pumped hydro power station to be built in Australia in almost 40 years.
Genex has commenced its main construction works at the Kidston gold mine. It is no small project, linking two water-filled pits to create a battery that will stabilise the North Queensland grid and potentially have the capacity to power 280,000 households. It will give the equivalent CO2 savings of taking 33,000 cars off the road.
“After the Kidston goldmine — at one time Australia’s biggest and richest mine — closed in 2001, only some large excavations and a nearby ghost town remained. With two massive voids in close proximity and a big difference in their elevation, the site makes a promising location for the world’s ﬁrst co-located solar power pumped hydro storage project.”
But it’s not cheap. The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) has invested $610 million, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has given a $47 million grant, and last year Genex issued new shares, raising $115 million. That’s a staggering total of $777 million.
Genex Power Ltd acquired the Kidston mine with a fully operable camp infrastructure for accommodation, access to additional fresh water from the nearby Copperﬁeld dam, as well as licenses, access roads and an airﬁeld, a switch-yard, and a 132 kV transmission line from the Queensland government.
Genex Power has been operating a 50 MW solar farm near the site since 2017. A planned 150 MW wind farm and solar expansion will contribute the energy needed to pump water from the lower to the upper pits. Kidston is to be connected to the main grid through a new 200 km long 275 kV transmission line from Kidston to the East Coast of Queensland.
The engineering works will include building a “turkey’s nest” around the top of the uppermost mine pit. This will create a storage capacity of 2000 MWh. Water stored in this upper reservoir will fall some 220 metres down two vertical inlet shafts through reversible turbine-generators into the lower reservoir to generate electricity. Startup time is expected to be less than 30 seconds.
Many technical and engineering issues need to be overcome. However, it is expected that the 250 MW Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro Project will be operating by 2024.