Genex Power’s $580 million energy project near the township of Kidston, Queensland has been granted special status as a “prescribed project’.

Queensland Minister for State Development and Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Dr Anthony Lynham granted the project its special status, which he said would enable the Queensland Coordinator-General to progress the project – including ensuring timely approvals across governments.

“The Kidston project will support our policy to generate 50 per cent of Queensland’s electricity needs from renewable energy by 2030,” said Dr Lynham.

The project, which will create more than 500 local jobs, proposes:

  • a 150 MW solar PV farm
  • a 330 MW pumped storage hydroelectric scheme, using the former mine pits and their stored water
  • a 185 km transmission line to carry power to the cost and the main Powerlink line between Townsville and Cairns

“It’s recycling the infrastructure of the former Kidston gold mine which closed in 2001, a world first by using a disused mine site for hydroelectric power generation,” Dr Lynham said, referring to the fact that the solar farm will be installed on the former mine’s 300 hectares of rehabilitated tailings storage area.

The awarding of the “˜prescribed project’ status follows Genex’s shortlisting of two EPC contractors for the initial 50 MW stage of The Kidston Solar Farm. The farm was one of the 10 Queensland solar projects shortlisted earlier this year by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

Further, the pumped storage hydroelectric project, which is being developed in parallel, is proposed to be Australia’s third largest hydro generator.

“The project has the potential to meet all the peak power generation demands of North Queensland and some of Central Queensland,” Dr Lynham said.

The design of the hydro project proposes for water to be released from one of the former mine pits into the other through reversible turbines. This is similar to Queensland’s Wivenhoe Power Station and New South Wales’ Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme.

During off-peak power consumption periods, the turbines will function to pump the water back into the upper reservoir to repeat the cycle.

Construction starts on the solar farm in the final quarter of 2016 and on the hydroelectric project and transmission line in 2017.