That’s a dam fine idea

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - JOHN AN­DER­SEN

A FORMER tail­ings dam is rapidly be­ing trans­formed into a so­lar farm at the old Kid­ston gold mine north­west of Townsville.

The fact that a tail­ings dam, once the prov­ince of all sorts of du­bi­ous mine run- off, is now host­ing 540,000 so­lar pan­els made robot­i­cally in Malaysia is a de­li­cious irony.

This cur­rent phase, Stage One, is part of what will be­come a far grander $ 1 bil­lion so­lar and hy­dro en­ergy project, one that has been granted Crit­i­cal In­fra­struc­ture sta­tus by the Queens­land Govern­ment. The only other project on the state’s books that has been con­ferred sim­i­lar sta­tus is Adani’s Carmichael mine project. Si­mon Kid­ston is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Genex Power, the com­pany de­vel­op­ing the Kid­ston so­lar and pump hy­dro project.

He said the project in­volved a $ 150 mil­lion trans­mis­sion line be­ing built by the State Govern­ment from Mt Fox west of Ing­ham to Kid­ston. He said power gen­er­ated at Kid­ston would be sent back along this line as well as to For­sayth in the lower Gulf Coun­try and Hugh­en­den to the south where it would be used to fa­cil­i­tate the con­struc­tion of wind en­ergy precincts.

“The Queens­land Govern­ment is build­ing a green en­ergy hub at Kid­ston, For­sayth and Hugh­en­den that in­cor­po­rates wind, so­lar and hy­dro. It will be the only place in the world where you will have re­new­able power avail­able 24/ 7,” he said.

Mr Kid­ston said the in­ter­mit­tent wind and so­lar sup­plies gen­er­ated in the green en­ergy hub would be backed up by the 24- houra- day re­li­a­bil­ity of the hy­dro plant at Kid­ston.

Elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated at the Kid­ston so­lar farm will also be used to run the pump hy­dro plant. The hy­dro plant will be con­structed us­ing water flow from the former gold min­ing pits.

Mr Kid­ston said 250MW of elec­tric­ity could be gen­er­ated for five hours a day by pump­ing water through tur­bines from the top pit to the bot­tom pit.

He said dur­ing pe­ri­ods of peak de­mand the water in the top pit would be re­leased back into the bot­tom pit, via the tur­bines. This would gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity that would be de­liv­ered to the na­tional grid. In off- peak hours, elec­tric­ity made in the so­lar farm would be used to pump the water from the bot­tom pit back into the top pit.

There are 110 peo­ple, mostly from Townsville, work­ing on the project. Mr Kid­ston said this num­ber would swell to more than 500 when work tran­si­tions to Stage 2 in 2018.

There are dis­tinct ad­van­tages to build­ing a so­lar farm on a dis­used tail­ings dam. There is no rock or hard ground. It is all sed­i­ment. This will be mu­sic to the ears of any­one who has ever wielded a crow­bar and long- han­dled shovel for a liv­ing. It is on this ground that 24,640 steel posts will be driven into the earth to sup­port the 540,000 pan­els.

Robin Watt from engi­neer­ing and con­struc­tion firm UGL, said the pan­els had been de­signed to with­stand hail storms.

IN­NO­VA­TIVE: Genex project man­ager John Lawlor at the site. Pic­ture: SCOTT RAD­FORD- CHISHOLM

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