Genex plans big battery in Queensland, seals equity deal with J-Power

Kidston pumped hydro project
Proposed pumped hydro storage in Queensland.

Listed renewable energy developer Genex Power has announced plans to build the first big battery in Queensland, a 50MW facility with 1.5 hours of storage that will it build in addition to the Kidston pumped hydro project in the north of the state.

The 50MW/75MWh Como battery storage project will be built near Rockhamption in central Queensland, with a view to entering the market for energy arbitrage and frequency and other grid services by the end of 2021.

The big battery proposal was unveiled in a presentation to investors by Genex, along with news that it has reaffirmed a $25 million equity commitment by Japanese energy giant J-Power that will help Genex move forward with its Kidston pumped hydro project, that will provide 250MW of capacity and eight hours of storage.

The J-Power deal is important for Genex as it had to be renegotiated following delays to the Kidston project caused by the need to re-do an off-take contract with Energy Australia, and extend the deadline for a $610 million debt financing deal with the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility and a network financing deal with the Queensland state government.

The Como battery is being touted by Genex as the first big battery in Queensland, although it will probably not be built before the bigger 100MW/150MWh Wandoan battery already announced by AGL, which will be sited next to a large solar project in the south of the state and is due for completion also in 2021.

The Genex presentation says there are currently no large scale grid-scale batteries in Queensland (well, actually there are two small ones at Lakeland and the yet to be commissioned Kennedy in the far north), and they will be able to provide frequency regulation, reduce renewable energy curtailment and support rapid and flexible ramping, along with “black start” services.

“Batteries have the ability to operate in all 9 markets: energy market and 8 FCAS markets,” it says, adding that there is a strong business case for energy arbitrage based on the growing penetration of rooftop solar – already more than 3.3GW in Queensland.

Genex says the Como battery will connect into an existing substation and the connection process has already been commenced with the local transmission provider Powerlink. It hopes to have the project online by the fourth quarter of the current financial year.

Genex already operates a 50MW solar farm at Kidston, the site of a former gold mine, and is building another 50MW solar PV project at Jemalong in NSW. If the pumped hydro project goes ahead, it could then add another 270MW of large scale solar PV at that site, and also up to 150MW of wind.

The deal with J-Power will give the Japanese company a stake of between 15 per cent and 19.99 per cent in Genex, which is currently negotiating with an unidentified parter who will inject equity directly into the Kidston pumped hydro project. The total equity requirement for the Kidston pumped hydro project is believed to be in the order of $100 million, and the J-Power deal will give Genex more flexibility to retain its own equity share.

“The investment by J-Power secures the funding required for Genex’s equity component for the (Kidston) project,” company chairman James Harding said in a statement.

“The balance of the equity funding is to be secured via the project equity investor process, which is in the final stages as we continue to finalise the project financing arrangements with all our stakeholders. We will continue to keep the market informed of developments as we progress toward financial close which is targeted for September 2020.”

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