Tumut 3 hydro power station
Tumut 3 hydro power station Image Credit: RenewReporter

Genex Power Limited has secured a $54 million investment from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to build a 50 Megawatt solar farm at the Kidston Renewable Energy Hub, 270 kilometres north west of Townsville, Queensland.

The Kidston Renewable Energy Hub is centred around the former Kidston gold mine, and has attracted interest due to the potential for the site to be adapted for us as pumped-hydro energy storage. The former gold mine now consists of two disused mine-pits, allowing for water to be pumped and stored between the two pits.

The 50 Megawatt solar farm will form phase one of the project, with the intended stage two to consist of a 250 Megawatt pumped-hydro energy storage project, to be fed by the solar farm and to provide flexible generation capacity to the grid. Genex has secured approximately $100 million in total finance for the project, with additional investment being made by French firm Société Générale.

“The CEFC is delighted to be part of the Kidston Solar Project Phase One, with our tailored finance helping accelerate the construction and delivery of the 50MW large-scale solar farm on this unique site,” CEFC Large-Scale Solar lead Gloria Chan said.

“This substantial solar farm is ideally located in an area of high solar penetration, and will be able to produce enough energy to meet the needs of almost 26,500 homes once it starts generating power later this year.”

Genex estimates that on completion, the 250MW pumped hydro storage project will support 1,500 MWh of continuous power in a single 6-hour generation cycle. The company sees the investment in the solar farm, co-located at a site suitable for large-scale energy storage, as the first step towards securing finance for the Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro project.

Genex Power also has plans to construct an expanded, 270 Megawatt solar farm on the site, providing enough electricity to power more than 140,000 homes.

“Genex was pleased to work closely with the CEFC on the financing of Phase One of the Kidston Renewable Energy Hub.  As an ASX-listed company focused on renewable energy generation and storage, we are pleased to partner with the CEFC to develop this project.  The development of the Kidston Renewable Energy Hub is an important step in the transition of the Australian economy to a clean, low carbon economy.” Genex Managing Director Michael Addison said.

Australia currently has just three large-scale pumped hydro energy storage projects, with the largest being the 1,650 Megawatt Tumut 3 power station that is part of the Snowy Hydro Scheme.

The Kidston Pumped Storage hydro project completed a feasibility study with $4 million in funding support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

ARENA will also chip in an additional $8.85 million in grant funding to support the construction of the large-scale solar farm, as part of ARENA’s Large-Scale Solar push.

The project is also the latest in a flurry of projects to receive investment support from the CEFC. The CEFC now expects that its investments in large-scale solar will exceed its initial target of $250 million. Many projects that succeed in winning grant funding through ARENA’s large-scale solar funding round are succeeding in also attracting co-investment support from the CEFC to finance project construction.

Genex’s pursuit of opportunities in pumped-hydro energy storage comes as the Federal Government announced that it will prioritise such projects for funding from ARENA and the CEFC.

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