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Genex Power Ltd (Genex) has commenced construction on the world’s first co-located solar and pumped storage hydropower plant at the abandoned Kidston gold mine in north Queensland.

The 250MW Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro Project, 270km northwest of Townsville, is the first pumped hydro power station to be built in Australia in almost 40 years.

The project will involve linking two water-filled pits to create a battery that will stabilise the North Queensland grid and potentially have the capacity to power 280,000 households. It will give the equivalent CO2 savings of taking 33,000 cars off the road.

Kidston goldmine, once Australia’s biggest and richest mine, closed in 2001, leaving only some large excavations. With two massive voids in close proximity and a big difference in their elevation, the site makes a promising location for the project.

The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) has invested $610 million, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has given a $47 million grant, and last year Genex issued new shares, raising $115 million. That’s a staggering total of $777 million invested in this project.

Genex acquired the Kidston mine with a fully operable camp infrastructure for accommodation, access to additional fresh water from the nearby Copperfield dam, as well as licenses, access roads and an airfield, a switch-yard, and a 132kV transmission line from the Queensland Government.

Genex has been operating a 50MW solar farm near the site since 2017. A planned 150MW wind farm and solar expansion will contribute the energy needed to pump water from the lower to the upper pits. Kidston is to be connected to the main grid through a new 200km long 275kV transmission line from Kidston to the East Coast of Queensland.

The engineering works will include building a “turkey’s nest” around the top of the uppermost mine pit. This will create a storage capacity of 2,000MWh. Water stored in this upper reservoir will fall some 220ms down two vertical inlet shafts through reversible turbine-generators into the lower reservoir to generate electricity. Startup time is expected to be less than 30 seconds.

It is expected that the 250MW Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro Project will be operating by 2024.

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