Wind industry hopes to finally strike a blow in most northern state

Global Publication November 2015

This article was originally published by RenewEconomy and is reproduced with permission. Read full article

By Giles Parkinson on 25 November 2015

It is one of the curiosities of the Australian renewable energy industry that there are virtually no wind turbines in the country north of Sydney.

In the state of Queensland, there is a single, ageing wind farm, the Windy Hill facility in the far north of the state, and two small turbines on Thursday Island. Of the 3,500MW of wind generation capacity currently in the country, Queensland only supplies around 12MW.

If the Queensland Labor government is to have any chance of meeting its 50 per cent renewable energy goal for 2030, then it will need to quickly find new wind projects.

That should not be too much of a problem. The Kennedy wind farm, which we profile here, is proposing a total of 600MW, combined with 600MW of solar, and some storage, to create a world-leading hybrid project.

The state government will likely have to balance the apparent gold rush for large-scale solar projects with some wind projects too, and several companies have some significant proposals on the table.

Ratch Australia and the property developer Port Bajool propose to build a 189MW wind farm, to be known as Mt Emerald, on private land on the plateau adjacent to the Mt Emerald/ Springmount area in the north of the state in the Atherton Tablelands.

Development approval for the $380 million project was given by the Queensland planning minister earlier this year.

Infigen Energy also has approval for a smaller, 75MW wind farm at Forsayth, although both projects will depend on their ability to land power purchase agreements, and possibly the outcome of a capacity auction that Ergon Energy is conducting.

According to those within the industry, good wind projects in the state will still beat large-scale solar on cost by around $20/MWh, although that may be reduced by the willingness of ARENA and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to provide grants and finance to solar projects.

Queensland has missed out on big wind projects to its southern neighbours, possibly as a result of slightly lower wind speeds, and possibly also because of the antipathy of previous governments and the conservatism of its state-owned utilities.

But the newer, bigger turbines is making that difference negligible. And with the impending addition of storage, wind energy is being pushed by the industry as a necessary alternative to a series of large-scale solar plants.

Which is a big reversal of what’s happened in the rest of Australia over the last few years, where there has been more than 3.5GW of wind, and little solar until some 185MW was installed in NSW, the ACT and Western Australia over the last two years.

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