Recent projects and initiatives in Australia demonstrate that there is potential in turning old mines into renewable energy developments. 

Aside from the obvious benefits these renewable energy hubs would have for the environment, with the construction of solar farms and hydro energy projects, they would also benefit the communities that surround them by cutting electricity and associated costs.

The Kidston Solar Farm Project (KSFP) in North Queensland is one such example of an abandoned mine that is being revitalised to serve the environment. The new eco-hub will sit on the former site of one of Australia’s largest open-cut gold mines, the Kidston gold mine (closed in 2001). Genex Power, the company behind the project, will make use of the remaining mine infrastructure. This will reduce both the development and construction costs associated with similar energy projects across the country. The resources left behind include mining voids, a tailings storage facility and a waste rock dump.

The revitalisation of Kidston has been planned across two stages; the construction of stage one began in January. This initial construction consists of a 50MW solar project, which is expected to produce around 145,000MWh of renewable energy per year. This will be supplied directly into the National Electricity Market (NEM), which covers 40,000km of transmission lines to nine million Australian customers.

Additionally, the Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro Project (KPSHP) – which will have a generation capacity of 250MW – will result in a storage capacity of 1,500MWh over a six-hour period. 

Stage two of the project will see the construction of a 270MW solar farm on the former gold mine site. This solar farm will be the largest in Australia, outstripping even the much-lauded Broken Hill solar farm. The new solar project will have the potential to produce up to 783,000MWh each year, meaning it will be capable of acting as a source of energy for the KPSHP during the intra-day pumping cycle.

Construction of stage two is excepted to commence in the first quarter of 2018.

This eco-initiative of turning unused mines into hubs of sustainability is not just isolated to the Kidston mine. Governments around the country are taking the opportunity to explore the benefits of converting abandoned mines into sources of renewable energy.

Already, the Victorian government has announced it will be contributing $100,000 to a feasibility study for a solar-pumped hydro energy storage project at the historic Goldfields mine in Bendigo. A further $50,000 for this project will come from the City of Greater Bendigo council.   

“Solar pumped hydro has the potential to store and generate significant amounts of energy,” says Victorian energy, environment and climate change minister Lily D’Ambrosio.

“[The] feasibility study is the first key step towards realising the benefits of solar pumped hydro for the Bendigo region.”