Qld hybrid solar and pumped hydro project set to begin next year

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Construction of what could be Australia’s largest solar farm is set to begin in early 2017, after two companies were shortlisted for the engineering design, procurement and construction of the first phase of the 150MW project.

The company behind the Kidston Solar Project, NSW-baswed Genex Power, said it had shortlisted two “highly reputable” and experienced parties to build the first 50MW at the abandoned Queensland goldmine chosen to host the solar farm.

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Genex and US feasibility consultants AECOM have been running the competitive tender process for the job alongside the Feasibility Study for the first 50MW of the project, which is now well advanced and on track for completion in 2Q 2016.

The ultimate plan for the solar project – which Genex says benefits from one of the highest solar radiation resources in Australia – is to pair it with pumped hydro.

To do this, Genex proposes to transform two adjacent pits left over from the disused mine into a large-scale hydroelectric power plant, that will store excess renewable electricity generation and then sell it directly into Australia’s National Electricity Market during times of peak demand.

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Genex managing director Michael Addison said that while the flagship pumped storage project remained the company’s main focus, it anticipated the Kidston Solar Project as being significant in its own right, with the potential to bring near term cashflow and add to shareholder value.

“This milestone is another step for Genex in the development of the Kidston site as an important energy hub for the State of Queensland,” Addison said on Wednesday.

Addison added that capital costs for the first 50MW of the project were in line with expectations and confirmed the potential for attractive returns.