Qld solar-paired pumped hydro plant could reach 450MW

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Genex Power says a new design for its Kidston pumped hydro plant could increase peak generation capacity by 120MW.

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A pumped storage hydropower project that is proposed for north Queensland, to be built alongside what could be Australia’s largest solar farm, could be much bigger than first conceived, with new designs suggesting peak generation capacity at a maximum of 450MW over a 5-6 hour period.

The Kidston Pumped Storage Hydropower Project is being developed at the disused Kidston Gold Mine in north Queensland and is currently at the feasibility study phase, which has been supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

KPSP-Turkey-Nest-450MW-6890x300

The “world first” project – which is being developed by NSW-based Genex Power – aims to transform two adjacent pits left over from the disused mine into a large-scale hydroelectric power plant, that will store excess generation from a 150MW solar array, and then sell it to the grid at times of peak demand.

Pumped storage hydropower – there are currently only three examples of this in Australia – is a highly efficient form of large-scale energy storage that would pair well with the introduction of more wind and solar power into the NEM.

It has the potential to generate rapid response, flexible power for delivery into the National Electricity Market (NEM).

Genex said last week that power and water consulting firm Entura, along with project partner HydroChina, had produced a new design (see image above) with the potential to increase the plant’s head and peaking generation capacity, beating earlier expectations.

In a statement to the ASX on Thursday, Genex said the design layout of the Project had evolved substantially since the pre-feasibility study (PFS) concept was initially identified.

The new “optimal” design proposes a “Turkey’s Nest” shallow dam design for the upper reservoir, which would incorporate a number of strategic advantages, and remove a number of previous constraints.Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 12.36.59 PM

“Most significantly,” the ASX report says, the design enables a significant increase in the installed capacity of the project, from the initial 330 MW to up to 450MW.

“Clever thinking and commercial focus has delivered an optimal design solution to maximise the potential of our project,” said Genex managing director Michael Addison.

“The new design provides the lowest cost per MW of installed capacity and presents the lowest operating and environmental risk.”

Project Director and Principal Consultant, Civil Engineering at Entura, Richard Herweynen, said significant studies and investigations have been undertaken over the past months to provide confidence around this solution.

“Our new design, which provides for a low turkey’s nest dam design for the upper reservoir located on the top of an old waste rock dump, was developed through a detailed options assessment and optimisation process,” he explained.

Entura has worked with clients in more than 30 countries over the past few decades – including India, Laos, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, South Africa and Tajikistan – assisting with developing, operating and maintaining hydropower assets of all sizes.

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7 Comments
  1. lin 4 years ago

    Fantastic to see this moving forward.
    With more renewables available, the Snowy and other hydro schemes should be able to get in on the act too, and potentially earn their owners an additional revenue stream through greater utilisation of an existing asset.

  2. Stan Hlegeris 4 years ago

    A year ago I responded to an article about Genex’s offer of shares at 20c:

    “I’m as enthusiastic as the next guy about this sort of project, and I hope it works.

    “But investors should remember that every penny of the $8 million to be raised…will be spent on the feasibility study. Any actual construction will depend on raising further funds. …You have to ask why mug investors are being asked to fund this riskiest portion of the entire venture. Usually the answer is because there’s a buck in it for someone, and it’s not you.”

    A year ago I said I would jump at the opportunity to invest in a utility-scale pumped
    hydro system functioning as a peaking power plant, but that the investment on offer just didn’t make the grade.

    Maybe it’s better now: the company is a year farther along, and Genex shares closed today at 12.5c. In the past few months they’ve been as low as 8.5c. I continue to wish them every success, but the share market in Oz is cruel to startups of this sort.

    • Nicko 4 years ago

      Just as well that Hunt and Turnbull have announced that ARENA will not make grants if they can help it, then, to get around the early risk stumbling block!?

      They seem to have deliberately targeted the ‘weak link’ in the innovation chain in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The ‘agility’ and ‘innovation’ are NOT to be applied in electricity generation, despite it needing disruption like few other fields. Hypocrites.

  3. Tim Buckley 4 years ago

    This is exactly the sort of project ARENA is perfectly structured to support. Pumped hydro storage is a critical part of the new low emissions, smart grid of the future. As Stan below notes, the merits of Genex as an investment are yet to be established. The technology is proven, the electricity system need is clear, and the ‘only’ obstacle is the Australian government’s unwillingness to embrace and facilitate the inevitable electricity sector change coming. Meanwhile, solar is Dubai just reached a world record low US$30/MWh, down 50% in a year. Unstoppable.

  4. Zvyozdochka 4 years ago

    Excellent. Just do it.

  5. George Michaelson 4 years ago

    On the risk side, the upper dam structure looks totally man-made. So theres a construction compliance issue there (recall the bund wall which collapsed in Gladstone Harbour with incorrect placement of geotechnical fabric, and also some concerns with walls in regional dams in Australia). Also, as large open bodies of water they have evaporation loss risks. I assume the lower dams are also probably contaminated, and there will still have to be remediation of the tailings and management of runoff.

    I’m all in favour, but this isn’t “free energy” because there is construction, compliance and ongoing management overhead. Its still worth it.

    • john 4 years ago

      The new design could use both the lower pits as receivers of water from the new turkeys nest thereby increasing its head pressure and power delivery.
      The higher pit may be used as standby storage to keep a constant volume of water in the system, it is not clear from the sketch.
      The engineering is solvable. To mitigate the evaporation losses sheeting or just float some solar on the turkeys nest dam.
      This project is miles better than the alternate; another coal fired station which is laughable in the context that it is 2016 not 1916.

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