Green light given to construct Queensland pumped hydro plant

Australia’s first pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) system in 37 years is set to begin construction as Genex Power reaches financial close on its Kidston Stage 2 PHES project.

The $777 million project (including required transmission infrastructure) will be the first pumped hydro plant to be built in Australia since 1984, and the first to be used specifically to support the integration of variable renewable energy generation from solar and wind.

Located at the former Kidston Gold Mine at the Kidston Clean Energy Hub in North Queensland, the facility will produce approximately 250 MW / 2,000 MWh of baseload power, equivalent to eight hours of energy storage.

ARENA will provide $47 million in funding towards the project. ARENA also already provided funding for feasibility and development totalling $9 million for this current pumped hydro stage, as well as initially providing $8.9 million towards Genex’s 50 MW Kidston Solar Project in 2016.

The project is also supported with $610 million in concessional debt finance from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF).

Genex has now finalised its capital raising process to allow the project to reach financial close. EnergyAustralia is to be the project offtake partner for up to 30 years. A joint venture of John Holland and McDonnell Dowell is the EPC contractor.

Two existing mining pits at the former gold mine will be utilised as the upper and lower reservoirs for the PHES to minimise construction time and costs. During peak power demand periods, water will be released from the upper to the lower reservoir, passing through reversible turbines. During off peak periods and when the sun is abundant, water will be pumped back from the lower reservoir to the upper reservoir using electricity imported from the National Electricity Market (NEM).

A 187 kilometre transmission line, supported by the Queensland Government and Genex, will be required to connect the Kidston Renewable Energy Hub to the NEM. This transmission line is also expected to facilitate the connection of further renewable generation projects in the region.

Construction is expected to be completed by 2024. The project is expected to generate 500 construction jobs and a further 20 ongoing operation roles.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller welcomed the announcement and thanked everyone involved in achieving this significant milestone.

“On behalf of ARENA, I’d like to congratulate Genex on reaching financial close on a project that has been many years in the making.

“The Kidston PHES project will supply dispatchable, renewable energy to the grid when and where it is needed and provide a blueprint for how we store excess solar and wind energy at scale.

“Projects like this play a significant role in progressing Australia’s energy transition. Storage solutions such as pumped hydro and large scale batteries are a key part in providing back up power and grid stability as highlighted in the Australian Government’s first Low Emissions Technology Statement.”

ARENA has previously supported 16 PHES projects with over $28 million including the feasibility studies for Snowy 2.0 and Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation.

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