The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will provide $4 million support for an ongoing feasibility study into the construction of a 300 MW pumped storage hydroelectric power plant at the disused Kidston Gold Mine in North Queensland.

The feasibility study will explore the technical and commercial viability of the proposed power plant, which is estimated to cost around $282 million and is being developed by power generation development company Genex Power.

ARENA’s support follows the announcement Genex Power’s plans to develop a new 150 MW solar PV project on the Kidston mine site.

Acting ARENA Chief Executive Ian Kay said the work could reinvigorate the pumped hydro storage industry in Australia and enable more renewable energy to be used on national grids.

“The feasibility study aims to pave the way for the first new pumped hydro storage development in Australia in more than 40 years,” Mr Kay said.

Mr Kay said the proposed plant would take advantage of Kidston Mine’s existing infrastructure – minimising the project’s environmental footprint.

Genex plans to use the former mining pits as upper and lower storage reservoirs, and will operate on an off-peak pumping, peak generation cycle – storing excess electricity during periods of low demand and high generation.

Genex is also exploring the use of variable speed turbines, which can effectively manage grid stability in areas with grid constraints or high levels of renewable energy generation.

“If the case for pumped hydro storage at disused mine sites is proved, it could give abandoned mines across Australia a new lease on life. Genex has already identified nine sites with similar characteristics to Kidston that could be potential future candidates,” Mr Kay said.

He said the ARENA-supported feasibility work would generate useful knowledge for the solar and wind industries.

“The project will identify the technical, financial and regulatory roadblocks to the further development of pumped hydro and large-scale storage in Australia, along with any risks involved with using disused or abandoned mine sites for energy storage.”

The results of the feasibility study are due in October 2016.

Watch a video of the Kidston mining site.