A disused gold mine in northen Queensland is set to be converted into Australia’s third largest hydroelectric power plant.
In an Australian first, the old Kidston gold mine, 270km north-west of Townsville, will undergo a dramatic change of use and become the third-largest hydroelectric energy storage project in
Australia, once operational.
The innovative plan is being developed by Genex Energy who bought the old mine from Barrick Gold last year.
Genex Managing Director Michael Addison said the proposed power project was a big win for Queensland.
“This hydroelectric plant will create much needed peaking power for the state, up to 200 construction jobs in north Queensland, and a new use for an idle mine with existing infrastructure
which can be reused,” Mr Addison said.
Etheridge Shire Mayor Will Attwood said the project was very important for the region as it would bring many jobs during both the construction and operation phase and would help support local business in the area.
“We believe the approval process will be straightforward and we are working with Genex to assist them in their application to ensure that the next phase of their project can proceed efficiently,” he said.
Hydro power is an innovative, clean energy generation alternative that offers a large-scale, low cost solution to Queensland’s looming peaking power problems.
The Kidston site has the ideal characteristics for a hydro generation plant, as Pumped Storage Hydro Power needs two large water reservoirs in close proximity and with a significant water height differential.
“The mine site has two deep pits side by side and is already connected to the electricity grid through an existing transmission line,” Mr Addison said.
The project is unique, as there has never been an old mine converted into a power plant in Australia before.
The technology has been around since the 1890s and there are over 1000 installed schemes globally, with three already in Australia: Tumut 3, Snowy Hydro in New South Wales, Wivenhoe in Queensland and at Shoalhaven in New South Wales.
Development of the Kidston Project can be fast-tracked as it already has numerous existing approvals and a clear approvals pathway in place from its time as an operating mine.
There is an estimated $300 million in established infrastructure at the Kidston site including road access, existing dams, water, pipeline and electricity frameworks.
Mr Addison said the project was designed to help supply Queensland with power in peak periods.
“Queensland has significantly higher peak prices and more volatility compared with other states in the National Electricity Market,” he said.
“There is pricing volatility due to the generation mix and principal reliance on gas for peak and shoulder power generation. The Kidston Project will contribute to alleviating pressure on peaking power generation demand.”
Genex has completed a pre-feasibility study and is now in full-feasibility mode with the hydro-plant scheduled to be operating by the end of 2018 under the current timetable.