Indian energy giant Adani Group – the company behind controversial plans to develop Australia’s largest coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin – is set to begin work on the major solar plant it is building in the heart of Australian coal country: a 100-200MW affair south-west of Moranbah in Queensland’s Bowen Basin.
Having gained development approval from the Isaac Regional Council, Adani Renewables chief Jennifer Purdie said work would begin on the first 65MW of the Rugby Run Solar Farm by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, preparatory work on the solar farm – including cultural heritage surveys and engineering design – has already commenced, with orders for critical equipment now being secured, the Mackay Daily Mercury reported on Tuesday.
Adani’s progress on its first major renewable energy venture in Australia stands in stark contrast to the company’s current position in the coal market, with its $16.5 billion investment in the planned Carmichael coal mine, rail and port, still hanging in the balance – and looking more and more like a massive stranded asset.
As the International Energy Agency’s latest Energy Technology Perspectives report has warned, coal-fired generation for electricity will have to be phased out by 2030 if used at current rates without abatement. This leaves the thermal coal that will be extracted from mega-mines like Carmichael without much of a market – an inconvenient truth even Australia’s deputy PM has recently acknowledged.
But even as Australia’s leading Conservative politicians refuse to accept the inevitability of coal’s demise, the transformation of Australia’s major coal centres into renewable energy hubs is undeniable and unstoppable.
It’s happening in Newcastle, New South Wales, where eight renewable energy companies have been short-listed to tender for the job to develop and operate a 5MW solar farm on former landfill site at the coal town; it’s happening in Gladstone, Queensland, where five companies have been short-listed to tender for the job of developing an up to 450MW renewable energy hub at the fossil fuel shipping port and home to a 1,680MW coal-fired power station, the state’s largest electricity generator.
“This is an exciting project in terms of its size, location, and the technology we are using,” Dr Purdie said. “This will be Adani Renewables’ first (solar) project – the first of many.”
The $100 million first stage of the project, to be built on a 600 hectare patch of the Rugby Run grazing property, will use single axis tracking systems to improve efficiency and output. Further stages are expected to take the project’s generation capacity up to 170MW.
Construction of the solar farm is expected to be completed within 12 months of commencement of construction, which is expected to create up to 150 jobs.
“We are excited to welcome Rugby Run Solar Farm as the first renewable energy project in the region,” said Isaac Mayor Anne Baker. “This project continues to diversify our local economy, and will contribute towards a sustainable future for both Isaac and the state.
“We look forward to the employment opportunities and long-term benefits that Rugby Run will deliver to our communities.”