Construction has begun on what will be one of Australia’s biggest, and possibly lowest cost, wind energy projects once completed, the 530MW Stockyard Hill Wind Farm in western Victoria.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio joined executives of the project’s developer, Goldwind, on Thursday to turn the first sod for the the project, which is being built 35km west of the regional Victorian city of Ballarat.
In May 2017, Stockyard Hill stunned the clean energy industry by setting what was a new benchmark for renewables off-take deals in Australia, after Origin Energy signed a long-term power purchase agreement of below $55/MWh.
That deal – substantially cheaper than the average price of Victoria’s wholesale market this year – has since been followed by other deals that either match or get close, including the 429MW Murra Warra wind project in Victoria contracted by Telstra and other corporates, and the 453MW Cooper’s Gap wind farm in Queensland.
one need look no further than stockyard hill & coopers gap to see 1 GW of wind energy with effectively $0 subsidy. solar close. 14/14
— simon holmes à court (@simonahac) October 7, 2017
The following December, Goldwind reached financial close on the $700 million project, through a nine-member domestic and international bank syndicate led by NAB, and including Big Four members Westpac and Commonwealth.
At that time, Goldwind Australia managing director, John Titchen, credited the federal Renewable Energy Target, and the long-term Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Origin, for Stockyard Hill’s success.
“The project is progressing well,” Titchen said. “Goldwind will use its new generation GW3(s) turbines and a joint venture between SNC-Lavalin and WBHO has been appointed as the preferred contractor for the construction of the project balance of plant.”
But at the sod turning on Thursday, the Labor state government was claiming at least some of the credit, in particular for its winding back of its Liberal predecessor’s anti-wind farm planning rules, which it said had “almost killed off” Victoria’s clean energy sector.
In a statement on Thursday the Andrews government noted that eight wind farms, worth $1.07 billion, had been built since the it was elected, creating more than 2300 construction jobs. Another nine new wind farms were under construction, worth $3.2 billion, it said.
“We’re backing Victoria’s booming renewables industry every step of the way,” Andrews said in comments at the Stockyard Hill site.
“(This) project will not only deliver the clean energy we need but will help power new jobs in Western Victoria.
“We’re putting Victoria at the forefront of renewable energy and supporting the thousands of jobs it’s creating.”
As we reported here, the project signed a connection agreement just last month with local grid owner AusNet Services and the Australian Energy Market Operator, and will see AusNet spend $140 million on new network infrastructure.
This will include a new transmission line which will run 70km south of the Stockyard Hill Wind Farm to a new 500 kilovolt (kV) terminal station and network interface.
AusNet Services will also build, own and operate the new assets, and receive a fee from Goldwind once the wind farm is complete.
Chinese-owned Goldwind – one of the biggest turbine manufacturers in the world, and a major developer in Australia – bought the Stockyard project from Origin and will use 149 of its own turbines for the project.