The Queensland government has unveiled plans to build a new 500km transmission line in the north of the state to unlock barriers to more than 2000MW of large scale wind, solar and hydro projects, and create 5000 jobs.
The chief beneficiaries of the plan will be the proponents of the 1,200MW Kennedy wind and solar park – the largest project of its type in the world – along with other wind and solar farms, and some hydro projects.
Energy minister Mark Bailey says it is clear that it is cheaper to build new wind and solar than new coal plants. Indeed, wind and solar projects are now being signed off at prices – $55-$70/MWh that are well below the current price of wholesale electricity from the state’s coal and gas dependent grid, which is more than $100/MWh.
Bailey also signalled the project would likely mean the end to plans to build a new coal fired power station near Townsville. “If we’re sensible, we will” not build it, he told the Townsville Bulletin.
And he acknowledge the decision to zinc producer Sun Metals to build a 116MW to underpin the expansion of its refinery. “As the Sunmetals project shows, renewables can be used for baseload needs,” Bailey said.
The transmission line will likely follow a loop that gathers in the Kennedy project and others such as the Kidston solar/pumped hydro project, the Forsayth wind farm, and the proposed Burdekin hydro project.
It is a variation of the old Copperstring proposal that was designed to unlock the same projects with a line that stretched from the coast near Townsville to Mt Isa.
That idea was scuppered when Xstrata, now part of Glencore, opted for a new gas-fired power station instead, despite advice that the renewables option would be cheaper in the long run.
Glencore is now talking of closing the Mt Isa mining and smelting operations because the price of gas power has risen so high.
Windlab, the Australian company that is proposing to build the Kennedy wind and solar park, said the new transmission line would pave the way for projects able to power North Queensland for decades.
The Kennedy wind farm in located near the town of Hugehnden, along with several other smaller solar projects, and would represent an investment of more than $2 billion.
“Queensland is well known to have a world class solar resource, but it also has some very large commercial wind resources in the North, which will operate in a highly complementary manner to solar and will be key contributors to grid security,” chief financial office Rob Fisher said in a statement.
“The State Government has recognised this opportunity and the economic benefits that will flow to the region, and this is a welcome first step to realising those benefits.”
Indeed, new research shows that north Queensland’s economy is not dependent at all on a new coal generator, or new coal mines in the Galilee Basin, but would be better served encouraging the huge resources of wind and solar in the region, and plans to build a battery storage gigafactory near Townsville.
Windlab says its measurements show that Kennedy has a well matched wind and solar resource, with much of the wind blowing in the evening and night, complimenting the daytime solar resource. Storage is also planned for the project.
The first stage of the project – 40MW and 20MW solar and 4MW of battery storage – is expected to start construction in the second half of 2017, with the larger project to follow shortly thereafter.
The new transmission line is needed because while the existing infrastructure – a 66kV line – can support the smaller first stage, it is not enough to carry the load of the large project, and the surrounding wind and solar farm proposals.