Energy and Mines


Abandoned Gold Mine to Be Converted into Large-Scale PHES Energy Storage

Abandoned Gold Mine to Be Converted into Large-Scale PHES Energy Storage
September 12
14:53 2016

After being a mining community for a century, Australian town of Kidston is getting a second life following the closure of its biggest gold mine in 2001. Now there are plans to install a pumped hydroelectric energy storage (PHES) system at the site, combined with an integrated solar farm.

The project is run by Genex, a power generating development company based in Australia.

“We’re not aware of any examples anywhere else in the world where there is a large pumped storage system, or any efficient storage mechanism, with a renewable generation component attached to it – not on the scale we’re talking about,” says Simon Kidston, Executive Director of Genex.

The Kidston project, located in Northern Queensland, consists of two parts.

The first is a 50 megawatt (MW) solar farm, which Genex is already building and plans to complete by the end of 2017. It is estimated to cost around $100 million and generate 145 GWh of renewable electricity per year, which is enough to power around 27,600 homes, according to the company. The solar farm could be expanded to 150MW in the future, generating 435GWh per year — enough for around 82,800 homes. 

The second part is the installation of up to 450 MW PHES system that will supply a maximum of 2,250 MWh of continuous power generation in a single generation cycle.

The concept behind pumped storage is that surplus energy from the sun is used to pump water from the lower reservoir to the higher reservoir during the periods of low energy consumption. Afterwards, the water is released back to generate power when demand is high and renewable generation is low. The process is repeated over and over again.

The environmental impact is estimated to be minimal since it is a closed loop system that transfers water from the upper to the lower reservoir without any discharge.

For more details on the project, watch the video below:

The gold mine’s infrastructure was an ideal fit for the conversion. The mine consists of two large pits, 240 and 270 meters deep respectively, which can be used as the upper and lower reservoirs for the pumped storage, Genex adds.

Since the gold mine’s closure, it has been environmentally rehabilitated, with the two pits partially filled with water from a nearby Copperfield dam.

Currently, pumped storage is believed to be one of the most efficient forms of large-scale energy storage, which boosts the potential of such an endeavour.

Once completed, the project will be like a large rechargeable battery that will supply power directly into the National Electricity Market (NEM) in Queensland.

Genex received funding support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). In September, the company was approved for a grant worth AUD $8.85 million from ARENA under its Large-Scale Solar Funding Award Program, which is to be applied toward the construction of the solar part of the project. Earlier, Genex received AUD $4 million to help with its feasibility study for the construction of the pumped storage.

There is a tremendous potential of such projects in Australia, since the county has thousands of closed and abandoned mine sites and many of them have similar characteristics that are favourable to the conversion into pump storages.

To read more about the Kidston project, click here.  

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Anna Golubova

Anna Golubova