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A Sunshine State with wind in its sights?

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As a nation, Australia has some of the highest quality resources for renewable energy, and as a state, Queensland enjoys favourable sunshine hours that support both domestic and large-scale solar assets – but what about wind?

More favourable conditions for wind farms in the southern states of Australia have limited Queensland’s role in the wind energy market to one of an eager spectator. Traditionally, these southern states have attracted the lion’s share of investment, but now with its shifting priorities, Queensland is in the mix and keen to capitalise on a new wave of development opportunities.

So what has changed for Queensland? In short, a good dose of political goodwill backed up with meaningful policy changes. Under the Palaszczuk government we have seen intent to diversify Queensland’s energy interests to include more renewable energy assets and establish a more sustainable path towards Queensland’s energy future. Wind energy can, and likely will, play a key contributing factor towards the energy diversification of Queensland.

Why is this? It has been clearly demonstrated within Australia, and across the globe, that wind offers an affordable, clean source of energy which can help to reduce our reliance on coal and other fossil fuels that power our communities. Recognising this, the Queensland government adopted a range of policy initiatives aimed at supporting new renewable energy investments in the state.

This included the establishment of an independent Renewable Energy Expert Panel to investigate credible pathways to unlock the state’s renewable energy potential and, perhaps most importantly for wind energy, a wind farm development code with an associated supporting planning guideline to facilitate wind farm development in the state.

The wind farm development code – a framework to foster consistent assessment and approval of wind farm developments in Queensland – was released in mid-2016 and has brought with it some keen interest to the state from some of Australia’s leading energy providers.

The code brings together national as well as international best practice, removes the burden of assessment from local councils and places determination in the hands of the State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA).

With the wind farm code in place, developers have greater certainty around technical studies, design requirements and planning approval timeframes. This has helped instil confidence in those investing in such schemes.

However, all this means very little if you cannot reasonably connect your wind farm to the transmission or distribution networks. The recent merger of Energex and Ergon Energy to create a new entity – Energy Queensland – provides a renewed focus on the challenges facing Queensland’s transmission infrastructure and reduced capacity outside of the major population centres and established mining townships.

With Energy Queensland initially focusing its efforts on providing grid connection access for renewable energy projects as well as the government’s Advance Queensland programs, both of which have funded a number of progressive research and development initiatives, it is clear that the government’s commitment to growth in the renewables sector is genuine.

With the state government on side, policies to facilitate wind farm development and plenty of major players seeking new opportunities in the renewables sector, Queensland seems to have struck a balance that serves economic, environment and consumer stakeholders in the energy market.

Continued advances in renewables technology, government policy and price reduction in large scale wind, solar PV and storage will likely open up regional Queensland for further wind and solar developments – which will often be complimentary of each other.

Innovation in technology and increased global demand will likely further drive down the costs of wind turbines and help facilitate future investment. This, together with the guidance and support of Energy Queensland and the government’s Advance Queensland programs, it’s more than a cliché to say the future of large-scale renewable energy developments in Queensland is ‘bright and breezy’. It’s fast becoming a reality.

Mark Herod is Queensland renewable market lead at AECOM   

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  • trackdaze

    Chances are if the wond is not blowing in the southern states it will be in queensland so at the very least it will broaden

  • News Views

    The wind is always blowing in Queensland – political wind that is and from all sides!

    • Daniel Boon

      Yes, political promises of plans … like the carbon sequestration plan

      • Steven Gannon

        Or SA achieving their 50% target three years early? Wind and solar can be built relatively quickly. We all knew Direct Action was a waste of time and money before it began.

  • Daniel Boon

    “it is clear that the government’s commitment to growth in the renewables sector is genuine” …. really? not going to happen
    ‘1,000,000 homes with solar by 2020’! … no promotion of that, reduced feed-in tariffs and refusal of solar power fed into the grid

    ‘50% renewable by 2030’ ! not going to happen,
    Qld Energy is dragging its feet everywhere and actively working against it
    ‘In the 2007–08 financial year, 88% of Queensland’s electricity generation was fuelled by black coal, 10% from gas and 2% from renewable sources’
    ‘The state had a current generating capacity of over 14,000 MW’ yet the highest demand (in 2010) was 8,891MW … therefore 50% of is more than 4,400MW. … so where are they plans, these projects take several years to formulate …

    the Qld Govt does not want to enter into agreements to buy renewable energy, it’s dragging its feet on installation of state owned building and schools …

    • Steven Gannon

      QLD already produces >800MW from rooftop solar on most days, like today for instance. There’s 19% of daytime demand and that will continue to grow. There are several renewables projects in QLD ready to go and much more in the pipeline. A solar farm can be built in under a year. Anyway, you’re on the website that will inform you best, enjoy learning more.

      • Calamity_Jean

        “There’s 19% of daytime demand and that will continue to grow.”

        And every rooftop installation takes a tiny nick out of the profitability of coal-fired power plants. Coal in Australia is dying “the death of a thousand cuts”. Hurray, Australia!

  • George Darroch

    I’m pretty sure that’s Meridian’s Wellington NZ Makara wind farm in the image there.

    It’s looking bright and breezy for the sunshine and future wind state though, and we’ll have lots of subtropical wind farms to picture too.

  • Brian Tehan

    The wind map shows there’s some potential in the Northern tropics – inland away from the cyclones. However, the state with the most unrealised, high quality wind resources is Tasmania. WA also has a reasonable potential inland from Perth.
    Turbines spread over a greater geographical area will smooth out the peaks and troughs from wind.