- Case Study
Kidston project mines new gold: clean energy
You don’t need to look far to see evidence of North Queensland’s surging renewable energy scene. The arrival of massive containers of equipment to the Port of Townsville and road convoys transporting it to project destinations signal the epic scale of the activity. A recent shipment of major engineering components for the Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro project required 70 trailers to shift the gear to site.
Kidston is a darling of North Queensland’s unfolding renewable energy boom – with between $3.8B and $6.5B of renewables investment predicted for the region per year up to 2050.
The 250MW pumped storage hydro project is the flagship of the Genex Kidston Clean Energy Hub, the first of its kind in Australia for over 40 years, and the first to be developed by the private sector. When completed, it will also be the third largest energy storage device in the country.
This means Kidston is a pioneer in solving one of the renewable transition’s most challenging problems – how to store the large amounts of energy that could be needed across our communities when solar and wind capacity is low.
Generating and storing clean energy, the 250MW project will offer reliable renewable energy on demand during peak periods. A world first for pumped hydro, the Kidston project uses the pits from the abandoned Kidston Gold Mine as its upper and lower reservoirs. The completed project will offer ramp up times of less than 30 seconds and will have a generation capacity of 250MW for 8 hours (2,000MWh).
The project is generating hundreds of jobs. As Peter Gaylard, Senior Project Manager at John Holland says, “Here on the Kidston Pumped hydro storage project we have up to 150 people in camp at the moment, 400 at our peak when we have the transmission lines and powerhouse being fitted out.” Most of this workforce has been sourced from far north Queensland, reinvigorating the area as a job hub.
Genex CEO James Harding says, “Genex takes the local community very seriously. It’s a remote location so having local people [who] know the local conditions, the local capabilities, where to obtain materials, equipment, and support and live locally [is a great benefit].”
Combining solar, wind, and pumped hydro, the Kidston Clean Energy Hub is set to provide stable renewable energy across Queensland.
Kicking off with a 50MW solar project in 2017, the project discovered that Kidston has some of the highest solar radiation in the country. With a huge three-hundred-hectare patch of flat land between the Hub’s pumped hydro reservoirs and its tailing dam, a solar farm was a no-brainer. This initial solar project is set to be supplemented with a further 270MW solar project, as well as a 150MW wind project in the pipeline.
When the Hub is fully operational, the pumped storage hydro project will pump water uphill using its solar and wind generation plants to generate clean electricity in the evening peaks when customers demand it, reducing the need for coal fired power at peak load times.
The Kidston Hub further showcases the important role renewable projects have in the future of the construction industry as well as the great opportunities for related industries.
As Peter Gaylard confirms, “I think it’s really important for candidates looking for a job to realise that renewables bring opportunities for the long term and there is a pipeline of projects coming up beyond what’s happening now and their skillset from construction, mining, railways, general power, are perfectly compatible and we encourage them to join a renewables project.”