Adani, the Indian company looking to develop the controversial mega-coal mining project in the Galilee Basin, appears to have been quietly developing plans to build a large scale solar plant in the heart of Queensland’s major coal region, the Bowen Basin.
RenewEconomy has learned that Adani executives have been meeting with landowners in the Isaac Regional Council to find out if they are interested in doing a deal to host a large solar farm. There is no word on the scale of the project, or if it will go ahead.
The Indian company has been seeking federal and state government support for its $15 billion Galilee Basin project, which requires massive investment in a rail link to Abott Point and an upgrade of the port.
Private banks are baulking at the project, the Federal government now seems less keen since the replacement of Tony Abbott as prime minister, although the state Labour government seems supportive.
A spokesman for Adani was not immediately able to confirm that the company had held talks with landowners, or on the status of the project. If a project is proposed, it will likely take some months just to get development approval from the local council, even after agreements are struck with local landowners.
Queensland is emerging as a hot-spot for large scale solar developments, with Ergon Energy holding a tender for up to 150MW of capacity, and the Queensland government holding a tender for up to 60MW of capacity.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation are offering $350 million in grants and finance to support large scale solar, although this is nation-wide.
Numerous proposals have been made for large scale solar in Queensland, including from the proponents of a large scale pumped hydro plant on an old gold mine, the proponents of a combined 1,200MW solar and wind hybrid plant inland from Townsville, a potential 2GW mega solar park in southern Queensland, and several other large scale plants of 100MW or more.
Origin Energy has even talked of a “prospecting race” for solar projects in the region, something that has been confirmed by others in the industry.
A solar project from Adani would be ironic, given its commitment to the coal and the fact that it would be located in the middle of coal country. But it would make sense.
Adani itself has been making heavy commitments to the solar industry in its home country, recently announcing it would look to build 10 gigawatts of solar, as part of the Modi government’s plan to have 100GW of solar by 2022.
It has agreed with the government of Rajasthan to set up a 10,000MW solar park in that state, which will emerge as the largest such integrated facility in India. It has also signed a deal with SunEdison to invest $US4 billion in a solar PV manufacturing facility in the state of Gujarat.
Other Indian coal companies are also turning towards solar, with even the state owned India Coal – the world’s biggest coal company – announcing this week it will install 1GW of solar to help power its assets.
Note: A spokesman for Adani in Australia later said in an emailed statement: “Adani declines to comment.”
Giles Parkinson is founder and editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, and is also the founder of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and founder/editor of www.TheDriven.io. Giles has been a journalist for 35 years and is a former business and deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review.