Australia's largest solar farm set for construction after Neoen wins deal with CleanCo | RenewEconomy

Australia’s largest solar farm set for construction after Neoen wins deal with CleanCo

Neoen’s massive 400MW solar farm with 150MW battery storage in Queensland’s Western Downs to go ahead after signing PPA with state-owned renewables generator, CleanCo.

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Neoen Australia’s plans to build a massive 400MW solar farm in Queensland’s Western Downs region wlll go ahead after winning the backing of the state government-owned renewable energy generator, CleanCo.

Queensland’s Labor premier Anastaccia Palaszczuk announced the move on Wednesday – ahead of the formal unveiling at the Stimulus Summit co-hosted by the Smart Energy Council and RenewEconomy – that it had inked a deal with Neoen for CleanCo to buy 320MW of the output of the Western Downs Green Power Hub, paving the way for construction on the project to begin in July.

“As our economy emerges from the worst impacts of COVID-19, we need projects ready to go that will create jobs and stimulate spending, especially in regional Queensland,” said Queensland deputy premier Jackie Trad in a statement.

“Construction will commence in July, creating much-needed jobs, and generation is scheduled for the first quarter of 2022.”

Neoen – the French owner of the Hornsdalde Power Reserve in South Australia, which still boasts the world’s biggest grid-connected Tesla battery – won council planning approval for the Western Downs project nearly two years ago, and was hoping to begin construction last year. It had hinted at a major solar contract in its recent annual results presentation.

The project, located 22km south of Chinchilla and 62km north west of Dalby in the state’s south-west, is the second big project to be pursued by Neoen in Queensland, after the Kaban renewable energy hub that plans to combine 160MW and battery storage near Cairns in the state’s north.

For CleanCo, the Western Downs Green Power Hub deal marks its third investment, and takes its new renewable energy pipeline to a total of 820MW.

In March, CleanCo signed a deal with Spanish renewable energy giant Acciona to build a 1GW wind farm in Queensland – the largest in Australia. The agreement will see CleanCo build its own 100MW wind farm at the 1.026GW MacIntyre project near Warwick in the southern downs region of the state, and contract another 400MW of capacity from the project owner Acciona.

This deal paved the way for the entire project to be built by 2024, with the first power to be delivered in the middle of 2022.

The latest deal, with Neoen, comes as calls emerge from all sides of Australia’s renewable energy industry call on Australia’s federal and state governments to pave the way for a Covid-19 economic recovery led by investments in clean energy and robust climate action.

A report published on Tuesday noted there were hundreds of large-scale wind and solar projects already identified and with planning approval that were well placed to proceed quickly, and generate as much as $50 billion in investment.

Charting a pathway to a renewables-led recovery will be the theme of the RenewEconomy, Smart energy Council co-hosted Stimulus Summit, which kicks off at 11am on Wednesday May 6, and will feature a wide array of industry and government representatives, including the Queensland premier and energy minister.

“Neoen will maximise the use of suppliers and the local workforce in Chinchilla and the south-west to ensure the benefits of this development are shared in the region,” said state energy minister Anthony Lynham.

“It will also establish an annual $100,000 Community Benefit Fund that provides opportunities for local community-building initiatives for the duration of the project’s life.

“Importantly, this maintains Queensland’s progress towards the Palaszczuk Labor government target of 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030.”

Speaking at the Stimulus Summit on Wednesday, Premier Palaszczuk said she was “very proud” of what the state had achieved through her government’s renewable energy policies, that had put it on track to reach a 20 per cent share of energy generation from renewables this year.

“I am extremely confident in the outlook for renewable energy in Queensland,” Palaszczuk told the online Summit. The premier also noted that her government was in the process of mapping out a series of Renewable Energy Zones throughout the state that she said would “underwrite development of our economy.”

“In my view, Queensland is in a really strong position here.” Palaszczuk also highlighted the “huge potential” for renewable hydrogen production for the state

“If we can work out the technologies here, we will see a huge industry that will rival the likes of the LNG industry,” Palaszcuk said of the prospects for renewable hydrogen.

Neoen Australia managing director Louis de Sambucy said the company was excited to work with CleanCo, with whom it shared the same long-term vision.

“The electricity produced by Western Downs solar farm will complement CleanCo’s hydro energy production and it will be our first project in Queensland,” he said.

We are fully committed to delivering this landmark deal by making the most of the region’s excellent solar resources, the use of the latest technology and our experience in delivering solar farms on time and on budget.

“We look forward to Western Downs becoming a lighthouse project in achieving excellent regional economic and local community outcomes that will be needed in the aftermath of Covid-19’s impact on the economy.”

Powerlink Queensland’s interim CEO, Kevin Kehl, said the Western Downs Green Power Hub was “extremely well positioned” to connect to the national grid via Powerlink’s network.

“This project will bring Queensland to 2000 MW of large-scale renewable generation connected to the transmission network in the state,” he said.

On top of the CleanCo Neoen deal, the Palaszczuk government also announced on Wednesday a deal between QIC and the state-owned Yurika Energy to install a total of 15MW of renewables across five major shopping centre sites across Queensland.

And in a departure from the theme of the day, the state energy minister also announced a multi-million-dollar support package targeting “the survival and revival” of Queensland’s LNG explorers to maintain the state’s pipeline of fossil fuel resources projects and jobs.

“A strong pipeline of exploration is critical to our future mineral and gas projects, to future jobs and to future business opportunities for Queensland companies,” Dr Lynham said.

The generous package includes a 12-month waiver of rent on exploration land due between April 01 and September  01; a freeze on fees and charges until July 01, 2021; the release of almost 7000 square kilometres of land for gas and mineral exploration later this month; and bringing forward $2.8 million in grant funds for innovative exploration in the North West Minerals Province.

Read more from the 2020 Stimulus Summit:

Garnaut: Australia will lose competitive advantage if no clean energy transition

Canberra is a model for using climate action to drive economic recovery, minister says

Smart stimulus can create millions of jobs and accelerate our transition to zero emissions

W.A. sees no new thermal generation being built, even with no state RET

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