The first phase of the Kidston solar project achieved practical completion in December 2018. Credit: Genex Power.
The energisation of phase one was completed in 2017. Credit: Genex Power.

The Kidston solar project involves the development of two solar farms on the site of the historical Kidston Gold Mine, located approximately 270km north-west of Townsville in Northern Queensland, Australia. It will have a power generation capacity of 320MW.

The project is being executed by Genex Power in two phases. Phase one will deliver an installed capacity of 50MW, while phase two will have a capacity of 270MW.

The ground breaking for the first phase was held in February 2017, and the project was completed in November 2017. The first phase achieved practical completion in December 2018, which marked the completion of the construction and commissioning stages.

Phase one is estimated to generate 145GWh of renewable energy a year, which is sufficient to power 26,484 Australian homes and offset approximately 120,000t of carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions each year.

Genex Power secured development approval from the Etheridge Shire Council for the second phase of the Kidston solar project in April 2018. The feasibility studies are ongoing for the second phase.

The Kidston solar project is co-located with the 250MW Kidston hydro-pumped storage power generation project. The two projects, along with the planned 150MW Kidston Stage 3 wind project, form the integrated energy hub. Genex achieved financial closure for the pumped storage hydro project in May 2021, which is expected to support the development of the integrated hub.

Kidston solar project location

The abandoned Kidston gold mine site was preferred for the project as it is one of the highest solar radiation zones in Australia. The site also offers accessibility to Townsville and Cairns and is located in close proximity to an existing substation and transmission line.

The solar farm minimises the existing leaching effects of the tailings storage facility.

Kidston solar power plant make-up

The Kidston solar farm is installed with First Solar’s 4v3 Modules (S4-Modules) of the advanced thin film series. The functionality of the S4-Modules has been proven to deliver a high level of performance worldwide. The modules are ideal for the hot and humid climates at the Kidston site.

A new transmission line will be built during the second phase of the project. The existing substation and transmission line at the site connect the solar farm with the Queensland region of the National Electricity Market (NEM).

Power off-take

Genex Power signed a long-term, fixed-price, 20-year power purchase agreement with the Queensland Government for the supply of power generated from the solar farm in September 2016.

Financing for Kidston solar project

The financial closure for the 50MW phase one was achieved in December 2016. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is the funding partner for the A$126m ($94m) project.

Genex Power also secured an initial grant of A$8.85m ($6.6m) from ARENA for the construction of the Kidston project. The company further received credit approval for a debt facility of up to $82m in December 2016.

Genex Power received debt finance of A$54m ($41m) from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation for phase one of the Kidston project in February 2017. The company signed a refinancing deal for the existing debt facility for the first phase in December 2019.

Contractors involved

CIMIC Group company UGL was awarded a contract by Genex Power to deliver engineering, procurement and construction (EPC), and operation and maintenance (O&M) services for the first phase of the Kidston solar project in June 2016. The company was also selected as the preferred EPC contractor for the 270MW phase two development in December 2017.

Entura was selected by Genex Power to provide owner’s engineer (OE) services for the second phase of the Kidston project in September 2018. The contractual scope includes detailed engineering and design verification, along with construction and commissioning support during project implementation.

Genex Power chose First Solar as the supplier of photovoltaic modules for the solar power plant in September 2016.

AECOM Australia was appointed as the owner’s engineer and technical adviser, while Ergon Energy was engaged for the distribution of electricity from the plant.

Baker & McKenzie and PWC were engaged by Genex Power as legal counsellor and tax-structuring adviser, respectively.

Genex Power appointed Societe Generale as the lead debt financing arranger and financial adviser for the project.