Spanish renewables giant Acciona Energy has won the tender to build one of Australia’s largest solar farms in the heart of Queensland coal country, the state government has announced.
Queensland’s minister for state development, infrastructure and planning, Cameron Dick, said on Friday that Acciona would develop, finance, construct and operate the $500 million 300MW Aldoga solar farm in Gladstone, through a 30-year lease with the state government.
“At maximum capacity, up to 265 megawatts (AC), will deliver the equivalent amount of energy needed to supply up to 122,000 households, which is around five times the number of households in Gladstone,” Dick said.
He said the project would generate up to 240 construction jobs and 10 ongoing jobs, and that Acciona had committed to giving preference to local sub-contractors and manufacturers for the work.
As part of the lease agreement, Acciona will also establish a community benefits fund of between $50,000 to $120,000 per year, representing between $1.5 million to $3.6 million over the 30-year lease, to be provided to local clubs, associations and community groups in the region, Dick said.
“Combined with the renewable energy that will be generated, and the lease payments that will be made to the state, this project represents a major boost to the local community – economically, environmentally and socially.”
As we have reported, Gladstone is home to Queensland’s largest single electricity generator – a 1,680MW coal-fired power station, which this year turns 42 – and is also known for its busy shipping port, used largely to export Australian coal and, more recently, LNG.
Member for Gladstone Glenn Butcher applauded the Aldoga project as a major win for the region, that would deliver an “economic adrenaline boost.”
“Our region is proving time and time again that we can attract large-scale developments and heavy-hitting projects, which is an enormous vote of confidence in our community and our local economy,” Butcher said.
“State development projects like this one have a huge role to play in building our region’s prosperity – these are the types of projects that will keep us moving forward as a community into the future.”
The news also marks a big win for Acciona, which has secured the contract from a highly competitive field of 16 applicants, that was narrowed down to a short-list of five last September.
The company – which just four years ago, the company was reconsidering its development plans in Australia under the anti-renewables Abbott-led Coalition government – is also currently building the 132MW Mt Gellibrand wind farm in Victoria.
For Aldoga, Acciona will first undertake a detailed feasibility study and work to obtain development approvals, with construction of the solar farm slated to begin in the second half of next year and electricity generation in the second half of 2020. It will be connected to the grid via Powerlink’s Larcom Creek substation.
Acciona Energy Australia managing director Brett Wickham said the company applauded the Queensland government’s foresight in “breathing new life into an under-used State Development Area.”
The Aldoga project is part of Energy Development Queensland’s flagship renewables effort, and a part of the recently re-elected government’s Advancing Our Cities and Regions Strategy, which aims to renew and repurpose underutilised state land to generate jobs, and drive economic growth.
Separately, another 300MW solar project is being proposed for land in Rodds Bay, about one hour south of the regional city centre, by a company called Renew Estate – a joint venture between German-based Wirsol Company and local outfit Beast Solutions.
And of course, there are plenty more large-scale solar projects being planned and rolled out across the rest of the state, as the government aims for a renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2030.
“This is another project to join Queensland’s renewable energy pipeline of jobs and investment,” state energy minister Anthony Lynham said of the Aldoga project on Friday.
“Over the past 18 months, five large-scale solar projects have commenced operations bringing the total operational capacity of renewable energy in Queensland to more than 780 megawatts.
“Another 23 large-scale projects, totalling 2,200 megawatts, are currently financially committed or under construction. These projects will create almost 3600 jobs during construction and boost investment by around $4.2 billion.”