Kidston solar farm set for construction, chalking up win for ARENA | RenewEconomy

Kidston solar farm set for construction, chalking up win for ARENA

Genex Power will begin construction of the solar array at its Kidston pumped hydro project after securing debt and ARENA funding.

Kidson Pumped Hydro Project

Plans to turn a disused north Queensland gold mine into Australia’s biggest renewables-based energy storage project are nearing financial close, after securing debt and grant funding towards construction of the solar array for the ground-breaking project.

ASX-listed company Genex Power said on Friday that work on first stage of its solar and pumped hydro power project was expected to start soon, after the company received credit approval from its debt syndicate for a debt facility of up to $110 million.

Kidson Pumped Hydro Project
Kidston Pumped Hydro Project

The company said it had also achieved execution of its Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) grant funding agreement of $8.85 million, secured in the recent large-scale solar competitive tender.

The financial milestones come less than a month after the Kidston project – which will be unique in the world – was found to be technically feasible, with the favoured design capable of delivering 250MW of generation capacity, with six hours of continuous generation, and 1,500MWh of total storage capacity.

Essentially, the project will convert the former gold mine into a giant battery by exploiting the vertical drop of an old open pit gold mine. This will store the power from a potentially 200MW – but initially 50MW – solar array.

The idea is to pump water into an upper storage reservoir through the day or overnight when energy prices are low, and then release it into a lower reservoir to generate power during periods of high demand or need, offering the same kind of grid support services as a gas or coal-fired power plant.

And as ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht has pointed out, “it comes at a time when cost effective storage options are becoming increasingly important as more large-scale renewable energy generation enters the national electricity market.”

kidston storage solar

Genex managing director Michael Addison said on Friday that the commencement of site works marked another significant milestone for the project.

“(Kinston) benefits from one of the best solar resources in Australia and we will target first generation and revenue from the project in Q4 2017,” he said.

ARENA, meanwhile, is chalking up Kidston’s progress as a win for the Agency’s efforts to drive down costs – and accelerate deployment – in Australia’s large-scale solar sector.

“This opens up the potential to create Australia’s first big solar plant capable of delivering renewable energy into the grid around the clock,” Frischknecht said on Friday.

“The runs on the board for large-scale solar demonstrate the ARENA effect in transitioning Australia to a reliable and affordable renewable energy future.

“One example is falling local costs, which represent a large portion of overall costs. ARENA support and knowledge sharing activities have slashed the locally determined costs of developing and building plants by more than half in the last three years.”

Frischknecht noted that ARENA’s investment in large-scale solar is expected to unlock almost $1 billion in commercial investment that will mostly be spent in regional Australian economies.

“Nationally, the six plants in Queensland, five in New South Wales and one in Western Australia will be a huge boost to regional areas with the expected creation of around 2,300 direct jobs and thousands more indirect jobs,” he said.

Another 11 large-scale solar projects are currently working towards signing ARENA agreements, locking in finance and lining up construction contracts in order to reach financial close early next year, Frischknecht said.

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  1. john 4 years ago

    As pointed out the really good aspect of this project is that in is in a regional area bringing jobs and income which is highly beneficial.
    Even better with 11 other large scale projects working towards implementation most of which i assume will be in similar areas this has to be a good outcome.
    If enough of these can be built then the lowering in wholesale price of power must be the outcome.
    In the end, if the cost to run is zero energy via the sun only pump cost, control, repairs and maintenance as well as loan repayment the outcome has to be positive to the balance sheet.
    Once this project is up and running and the figures prove positive, i can see a very sudden interest in the other sites that have been surveyed.

  2. Andrew 4 years ago

    Why is public money (my money) being used to support already viable projects?
    The only “win” here is to Kidston shareholders who just increased their return on investment.

    • Mike Shackleton 4 years ago

      ARENA is a government owned investment bank, Its job is to seek out renewable energy projects that haven’t been deployed at commercial scale before and invest in them. It’s been making profits out of our tax money since its inception, that’s a good thing. They don’t often provide the full funding for the projects in question, but do provide a signal to the wider finance market that the project is viable and worth funding. The legislated funding to ARENA is only 2 billion dollars, extending out to 2022, which is nothing in the greater context of the Australian economy.

      • Paul McArdle 4 years ago

        Mike, I think you are thinking of the CEFC ( which is the more commercially-focused investment bank-style organisation operated by the government.

        My understanding is that ARENA’s focus is pre-commercial projects – in which case profit is not one of its KPIs. All of its funding is grant funding (i.e. no equity, or interest payments, or other direct financial return).
        It’s purpose, when established, was to be upstream of the CEFC, in earlier stage projects.

        Hence ARENA funding in this case reduces the funding requirements from other (commercial) sources and hence increases the ROI. In that sense, a measure of success for ARENA would be how little they need to invest and still get the project up.

        ARENA news is here:

    • trackdaze 4 years ago

      As opposed to the huge sums of money the govt wants to gift Adani?

      • Andrew 4 years ago

        As a general rule govt should be implementing policy and designing smart ways that leverage competitive markets to support it at minimal cost. Govt should not be dishing out dumb money grants to project favourites – that process is easily corruptible and makes wasteful bureaucracies stronger – and govt is just really bad at project selection.

      • Andrew 4 years ago

        That sounds like a false alternative fallacy.
        But for arguments sake, what is the policy justification – jobs, future royalties, clean air, infrastructure?
        And is the same pot of money available to anyone else that achieves the same objectives?
        The answers are: no idea, and probably not. That’s how your govt spends your money.

    • Pat Burrows 4 years ago

      I think it’s a loan, isn’t it?

  3. trackdaze 4 years ago

    This surely must be voodoo.

    Only coal can provide baseload…..votes.

    • Hettie 3 years ago

      Do try to keep up, Trackdaze.
      Baseload is so last century.
      It’s peak load that gives the problems now.
      The project under discussion, solar pumped hydro using an old goldmine, also allows solar to provide baseload indirectly. Widely used around the world.
      Coal is MORIBUND.

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