At a time when energy storage is the talk of the renewables
sector, the use of large-scale pumped hydro to store excess
electricity generation has been touted by some as a cheaper and
easier alternative to batteries to complement an increasingly
In Australia, NSW-based company, Genex Power, hopes to test this
theory via plans to convert an abandoned Queensland goldmine into
one of Australia's largest pumped hydroelectric storage
The $280 million, 330MW Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro Electricity
Project proposes to transform the disused Kidston gold mine in
northern Queensland into a large-scale hydroelectric power plant,
that will store excess renewable electricity generation and then
sell it directly into Australia's National Electricity Market
during times of peak demand.
It may also have a 150MW solar plant on the old mine site too,
with a new proposal to build a large solar PV array to complement
the pumped storage.
Genex executive director, Simon Kidston, believes pumped storage
hydro generation is making a comeback in places like the US because
it is the most efficient at being able to store power at a time
when solar and wind generation are expanding.
As Kidston notes, it's a well and truly mature technology:
the model they will use in Queensland has been around for more than
100 years, with more than 1,000 examples in use globally and three
Like the Tumut 3 section of the Snowy Hydro operations, pumped
hydro is based on the "water at height" principle where
the reservoirs have a large height differential.
This makes it particularly well suited to the Australian energy
landscape, with its multitude of retired (and soon-to-be retired)
In Victoria, for instance, it has been suggested that the
Latrobe Valley open-cut brown coal pits could be converted to PHES
service once they reach their use-by dates, with below-sea-level
mine pits used as lower ponds, and existing cooling water
reservoirs used as upper ponds.
Of course, a Latrobe Valley PHES facility would also be ideally
located beneath the major electricity transmission lines that
supply the Melbourne market.
And while the Kidston mine, 270km north-west of Townsville, does
not quite have that same advantage, it does have some of the key
characteristics required for a pumped storage power project,
including two deep, adjacent pits.
"The original mine site has two pits 400 metres apart, with
an ideal size and depth," said Genex managing director Michael
"Capital expenditure requirements are comparatively low, as
the site benefits significantly from mine and electricity
infrastructure already in place as well as existing permits. From
its time as an operating mine, the Kidston project benefits from
having numerous existing approvals in place and a clear approvals
To test this potential, Genex – which launched an initial
public offer in June ahead of listing on the Australian Securities
Exchange (ASX) in July – has engaged Hydro Tasmania offshoot,
Entura, to conduct a feasibility study into the proposal.
Entura will also oversee subcontracted tasks, including
geotechnical investigations and a bathymetric survey, and will
manage environmental and planning approvals for the project site,
including specialist reports and community consultation.
"Entura is a world leader in the planning, design and
construction of hydro power stations and we are pleased to have
engaged them to manage the bankable feasibility study
process," said Addison.
"Initial engagements... have been very positive and we look
forward to working with the Entura team, which has already
indicated scope for improvements on the initial project design. The
Genex Board will work closely with Entura to deliver a bankable
feasibility study on budget and is on track to complete the work by
30 June 2016."
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