Singapore-based renewable energy developer Equis Energy has announced plans to build a 1,000MW solar farm – which would be Australia’s largest – in the heart of Queensland’s coal and gas region in the Surat Basin.
The Wandoan solar farm, to be built near the town of the same name, adds considerably to the huge pipeline of wind and solar projects in Queensland, which now stands at more than 4,000MW.
Wandoan won approval from the Western Downs Council late last week and will begin construction when the first of several negotiations on off-take agreements is complete.
The $1.5 billion project is expected to be built in stages, and Equis could go bigger – this plant is likely to cover 1,400 hectares but is has more than 5000 hectares available.
Equis is taking advantage of existing infrastructure, including new transmission assets, which has been built to support the gas industry. Demand for energy is highest in the region because of the gas export industry.
Equis is also planning to build the 127MW Tailem Bend solar project in South Australia, to be built near a 28M diesel plant owned by Snowy Hydro.
That solar farm will begin construction when negotiations for contracts are concluded, and Equis also has an interest in the 150MW Collinsville north solar farm, where PPAs are also under construction, and other projects in the pipeline in South Australia and NSW.
All project are considered to be “battery storage ready”.
“Equis is committed to developing large-scale solar generation in rural areas to ensure employment opportunities and economic growth in local communities,” chairman David Russell said. Russell helped found the company, along with other ex Macquarie Group bankers and other fund managers and ex bankers.
Western Downs Regional Council Mayor Paul McVeigh said the council wanted to become “the Energy Capital” of Australia.
“We have our coal and coal-fired power stations and coal seam gas,” McVeigh told the Toowoomba Chronicle. “Now we have a third wave of energy with solar farms about to start construction. We are proud to be making ourselves the energy capital of Queensland and, we hope, for Australia.”
He said the timeframe in which Council has processed this application “highlights the message we are open for business, and I think it is important to reiterate that although our approval process is rigorous, it is efficient.”
The Wandoan project will include 3 million solar PV panels and generate 1.8 million MWh of electricity a year, equivalent to the annual needs of around 255,000 homes.