Plans to transform Queensland government-owned land in the coal centre of Gladstone into a 450MW renewable energy hub have come a step closer to being realised, after five companies were short-listed to tender for the job.
State resources minister Anthony Lynham said on Monday that five “highly reputable companies” were in the running to build what could be Australia’s largest solar farm – a project of up to 450MW proposed for a 1,248 hectare patch at Aldoga, at the base on Mount Larcom.
The land was earmarked as a future renewable energy hub by the government in April, when it called for expressions of interest to develop a large scale solar farm or other renewable energy facility within the Gladstone State Development area.
Gladstone – which is home to a 1,680MW coal-fired power station, the state’s largest electricity generator – is also known for its shipping port, which is largely used to export Australian coal and, more recently, LNG.
Member for Gladstone, Glenn Butcher said Aldoga could soon host Australia’s largest solar farm, after five companies five companies were shortlisted from 16 applicants and invited to submit a more detailed proposal.
“From where it sits and with the location of the huge substation down the road it certainly bodes well for a solar farm,” Butcher said in comments published in the Gladstone Observer.
Lynham said a ‘use it or lose it’ provision had been included in the lease agreement, to ensure no land banking could prevent the development of such a large site with good access to a high-voltage network for renewable energy generation.
“In the absence of the second stage being finalised, specific details cannot be provided on project delivery dates but I am advised that construction design and engineering should begin in 2018,” Dr Lynham said.
“A lot of these solar projects are being financed really quickly and I see this as no different,” Butcher added.
In comments in April, Butcher said the project would transform the region into “Australia’s largest renewable energy patch,” potentially generating power for up to 130,000 homes.
“We intend to turn this into a hub, a huge industry in renewables right here in Gladstone,” Butcher said.
“With this significant project we can put the region on the renewable energy map, creating economic uplift and local jobs,” he added.
And in comments this week, Butcher suggested the region could also become a bio-energy hub.
“This is just the first kick-off, I believe, on diversifying Gladstone and I’m very excited about the prospect,” he said.
“Having the State Development Area the size that it is, and having Australia’s best and most accessible port, Gladstone is untapped.”
According to the Gladstone Observer, he said “there were a few (possibilities) kicking around” which could gain momentum from the Aldoga project.
“It’s massive the amount of overseas companies that want to invest knowing that the government is on board.”
The Aldoga site will be Energy Development Queensland’s flagship renewable energy project and is part of the government’s Advancing Our Cities and Regions Strategy, which aims to renew and repurpose underutilised state land to generate jobs, and drive economic growth.