The once-lucrative Kidston gold mine, in northern Queensland, Australia, ceased operations 15 years ago. Now, it’s about to enjoy a second lifetime as the home of a one-of-a-kind renewable energy project.
Genex Power, a renewable developer, is going to use the mine’s two 300 metres-deep craters to create the world’s first pumped hydroelectric energy storage (PHES) system in conjunction with an integrated solar farm.
The facility will work by utilising the site’s two adjacent pits as reservoirs, with water flowing downhill from one crater to the other. When electricity demand is low, the water will be pumped back uphill and retained for later use. In a full generation cycle, it’s expected that water levels in the upper reservoir will shift by eight metres, while levels in the lower reservoir will fluctuate by up to 44 metres.
The thing that makes the Kidston project unique is that the project will recycle the water it uses to generate electricity, only tapping into a nearby dam if backup resources are needed.
The energy required to pump the water back uphill will be supplied by either the grid or the 50MW solar farm being installed next to the site of the former mine. The solar component alone will produce enough energy to power over 27,000 Australian homes.
It’s thought that the PHES system will supply a maximum of 2,250MWh of continuous power in one generation cycle. The project comes with an AU $100 million price tag and will likely be completed by the end of next year.