Green hydro storage hub to boost energy mix in region
A DERELICT mining settlement in the middle of nowhere is the unlikely site for an innovative renewable energy hub.
But it seems Kidston – also once called Oaks Rush – is about to be rediscovered. I was fortunate to accompany Federal Northern Australia Minister Senator Matt Canavan and Genex Power representatives on a tour to Kidston to see and hear about what is happening in this sleepy part of Etheridge Shire between Greenvale, Forsyth and Mount Surprise.
We flew in on a small Hinterland Aviation Grand Caravan aircraft from Townsville, landing smoothly on a packed earth airstrip.
From the air, though, you can begin to see what is interesting about this location: two roundshaped patches of cobalt blue water side-by-side in among some hills and disturbed earth ( pictured right).
Those patches of blue – the former mining pits of the Kidston gold mine – form the basis of a pumped storage hydro-electricity power station.
Around it will stretch legions of solar panels slowly turning to track the path of the sun, while on a ridge line 40km away huge wind turbines are planned.
This is the Genex Renewable Energy Hub.
Already there is a 50mw solar farm beside the mine pits feeding electricity through a small 132kv power line back to the Ross substation near Townsville.
Genex Power CEO James Harding describes the hub’s hydro centrepiece as “very much like a large battery”.
“Pumped hydro is a scheme that acts very much like a large battery using water instead of electrons,” Mr Harding says. “Effectively, you take an upper reservoir of water and a lower reservoir of water and you pump your water from the lower to the upper level using the electricity grid when prices are low. When prices are high, in the evening peak for example, you open the sluices and allow the water to run through your generator.”
It’s the arbitrage between the two electricity prices where the scheme will largely make its money, although Genex has plans to supplement its electricity needs by building a 160mw solar farm to power one of its two 125mw turbines.
The turbine turbines are reversible, ibl generating in one direction, pumping water back in the other.
Also, when the turbines are generating, they will produce enough electricity to power a city the size of Townsville, energy-hungry zinc refinery included, very, very quickly.