$1 billion energy hub for Queensland

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An Australian company developing the $1 billion renewable energy hub in Kidston, Queensland have announced plans for stage two of the project.

Genex Power’s renewable energy hub is comprised of three large-scale projects, a 50MW solar project (stage one), which is currently under construction and expected to begin generation in Q4 2017, a 250MW pumped hydro storage project, and an integrated 270MW solar project (stage two).

The development of stage one currently employs 120 workers, and more than 500 workers are anticipated to be needed for stage two. Given the scale of the projects, employment has been sourced from across Australia, but Genex has prioritised local employment wherever possible to provide opportunities for regional communities.

Genex is utilising much of the infrastructure that was left behind after the closure of an open-cut gold mine 2001, including the flat, consistent tailings dam as the site of the 50MW stage one solar project and two huge mining voids, which are now filled with water, as the upper and lower reservoirs for a pumped hydro scheme. The company is also taking advantage of an existing transmission line to connect directly to the national grid and an accommodation camp, airstrip, substation and solid road access that were built to service the mine operation.

Genex’s Executive Director, Simon Kidston, said, “The site is absolutely ideal. It is situated within the highest solar resource zone of the country, giving our solar projects one of the highest capacity factors in existence.

“We are also able to utilise the two mining voids as reservoirs for our pumped hydro project, saving significant amounts of construction cost and time.”

Pumped storage hydro is the most abundant form of energy storage, comprising more than 99 per cent of all worldwide storage due to its large-scale efficiency, 100-year plus project lifespan and low operation costs. By releasing water through a turbine/generator mechanism into a lower reservoir during peak demand periods, Genex can help stabilise the grid and take advantage of higher wholesale electricity prices. Once prices decline, particularly overnight when demand is low, the water is pumped back up into the upper reservoir, essentially recharging this giant water battery.

The integration of the 270MW stage two solar project with the 250MW pumped hydro project enables Genex to provide dispatchable solar power during the morning and evening peak periods, which is the first time this approach has been adopted anywhere in the world.

“Our second stage solar project will power the pumping cycle during the day, allowing us to recharge the hydro scheme, releasing the solar energy produced during the highest price points of the evening, creating renewable energy on tap,” Mr Kidston said.

The renewable energy hub has both federal and state government support, with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and Clean Energy Finance Corporation providing financial support for stage one and the Queensland Government providing a 20-year revenue support deed. The hub was recently declared a “critical infrastructure project” by the Queensland Government, with Queensland Minister for State Development, Dr Anthony Lynham, saying that the project will “help deliver a reliable renewable energy source and support hundreds of jobs”.

In addition, the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility has announced first-stage board approval for potential concessional debt funding for stage two of the project.

Further to stage two, Powerlink Queensland will develop a 275Kv transmission line to enable a grid connection for the integrated projects, resulting in further economic stimulation and job opportunities for the region.

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