lakeland Solar & Storage
Phase One construction at Genex Power’s Kidston Solar Project is well and truly underway. With Government support locked in for Phase Two and the Pumped Storage Hydro project, the Hub is set to deliver transformative benefits for North Queensland.
THE 570 megawatt (MW) Kidston Renewable Energy Hub is being built at a critical time for Queensland.
With gas and electricity costs soaring, Genex Power saw an opening in the market for a project combining both solar and pumped storage hydro to put downward pressure on prices.
“Three years ago we saw some structural changes occurring in the East Coast energy market, principally the increase of gas prices driven by the construction of the LNG plant in Gladstone that is now exporting a lot of gas offshore,” Genex Power executive director Simon Kidston said.
“The price of gas has gone up 300 per cent in the last 12 months. We saw that event occurring, and we also saw the growth of renewables.
Genex Power came up with the idea of converting an abandoned mine to utilise existing infrastructure on site to reduce development costs.
In 2014, the company purchased the mothballed Kidston gold mine from Barrick Gold; closed since 2001, the historic mine was once the largest open-cut gold operation in Australia prior to the development of Kalgoorlie Super Pit.
Located 270km northwest of Townsville, the rehabilitated site will soon be home to three renewable energy projects; a 50 MW solar project (Kidston Solar Project Phase One); a 250 MW pumped-storage hydro project (Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro Project) and an additional 270 MW solar project (Kidston Solar Project Phase Two).
Genex acquired two pits which it will convert into reservoirs for the hydro project; a transmission line connecting Phase one to the National Electricity Market (NEM); an airstrip; accommodation village; and nearby dam to feed more water into the pipeline, if needed.
“There’s also, very importantly, an environmental authority which was put in place by the gold mine which we can use for what we’re doing for power generation,” Mr Kidston said.
“This project comes fully permitted, and probably gives us half a billion dollars’ worth of savings and is really perfect for what we are seeking to do.”
In a twist of fate, the historic mine had family ties to Mr Kidston.
“My great, great grandfather was the Premier of Queensland in 1909,” Mr Kidston said.
“We didn’t actually have any ownership of the site at all, but when they discovered gold there was a massive gold rush and the town that grew up around the mine it was named after the Premier.”
phase one progress
Construction on the Kidston Solar Project Phase One (50MW) began in January this year, and was now more than 50 per cent complete.
“It’s actually being built on the tailings storage facility, where they [Barrick] put the waste material from their gold mine activity,” Mr Kidston said.
“The land was perfectly flat and proved to be the ideal location for the solar farm.
“Commissioning of project will begin by the end of November when we will generate our first energy, and then practical completion when everything is totally finished and signed off will be at the end of February.”
The construction phase was ramping up fast, with the team installing on average 24,000 panels a week.
“It’s literally being transformed every day; it’s amazing,” he said.
“In total 540,000 panels will be installed on a tracking system which means the panels follow the sun, so in the morning they face east, and they progress as they gradually face west.
“By doing that simple innovation we pick up a massive amount more of the sun’s energy which we obviously convert into cash flow.”
Once complete, Phase One was expected to produce 145,000 MWH of energy per year (enough to power more than 26,484 homes), which will be supplied direct to the NEM.
It would also increase the total of renewable energy generation in Queensland by 5.5 per cent alone; a sizeable increase given the State was only generating about 6 per cent of its energy from renewables at present.
phase two solar and hydro
Phase Two of the solar project and the adjoining Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro project was also moving forward.
In early June, the State Government announced it would commit $150 million towards developing a transmission line connecting the Phase Two solar and hydro projects to the national grid.
Weeks later, the good news continued; both projects received critical infrastructure’ and expanded ‘prescribed project’ declarations by the State Government, providing further assurance for Genex to accelerate development plans.
“The Queensland Government has been incredibly supportive,” Mr Kidston said.
“By declaring this project critical infrastructure puts us in the very rare company of projects they’re wanting to support, in fact there is only one other project in Queensland that’s at the top of the list.
“That means we’re at the top of the Government’s thinking in terms of how they can progress and make this project happen.”
Phase Two will comprise a 270 MW solar farm with potential to produce a massive 783,000MWH each year, while the 250MW hydro project will be capable of storing 1,500MWH of energy over a six-hour period, targeting periods of peak demand.
“It’s really like a giant water battery,” Mr Kidston said.
“What we’re planning to do is use the power from the Phase Two solar to drive the electricity to pump the water from the lower reservoir to the upper reservoir, and by doing so enable us to generate into the evening price peaks.”
Pending final funding arrangements with debt and equity partners, Mr Kidston said the solar project would involve an 18 month build and was set to come on stream by mid-2019, while the hydro portion would take three years to construct and be complete by 2021.
Supporting local communities
The Kidston Renewable Hub will provide a number of short and long term benefits to the North Queensland regional community.
Phase One of the solar project had already created 88 jobs, and Phase Two and the Hydro project will deliver a further 500 jobs for the region.
“Prior to the construction of our Phase One there was very little employment opportunities in the region, where now [the project] has put a massive shot into the local community’s economic stimulus,” Mr Kidston said.
“We’ve given preference to local employees and local sub-contractors as part of our community engagement strategy, and suddenly the place is buzzing again.”
On the broader level, Mr Kidston said the hub’s grid stability and energy storage capabilities was also what the Queensland community needed.
“They have got a pumped storage project near Brisbane, which helps the grid in the Southern part of the State, but they’ve got nothing up in the North and that’s what our project seeks to solve,” he said.
“We’ve been at this now for three years and suddenly the feasibility’s done; we’ve got the momentum now from the Government to get [Phase Two and Hydro] funded and the next milestone is to get it into construction, so that’s what we’re excited about.”
“in TOTAL 540,000 PANELS WILL be INSTALLED ON A TRACKING SYSTEM Which MEANS THE PANELS FOLLOW THE SUN, SO in THE morning They FACE EAST, AND They progress AS They gradually FACE WEST.”
Progress at the Kidston Solar Project Phase one early July.
Commissioning will begin at Phase one in November this year.
Plans for the 250MW Kidston Pumped Storage hydro Project.