Gigawatt-scale Queensland wind complex gets development green light

Acciona’s plans to develop a massive wind energy precinct with a capacity of more than more than 1000MW in south-west Queensland have been given the green light by the state government’s State Assessment and Referral Agency.

Queensland deputy Premier confirmed on Wednesday that Acciona had received approval to build the $1.96 billion project at Cement Mills, around 40km south-west of Warwick, which would install 180 turbines across two wind farms totalling 1,026MW.

Acciona said the approval cleared the way for the so-called MacIntyre Wind Farm Precinct – the global wind energy developer’s largest project yet – to move to the next stage of development, with construction expected to start in in the second half of this year.

“We are excited to be moving forward with this project and are proud to support the Queensland government’s decarbonisation strategy,” said Acciona’s Australian managing director for energy, Brett Wickham. “[It] will avoid the emission of nearly 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.”

The precinct will be split into two wind farms, the first a 162-turbine, 923MW MacIntyre Wind Farm that will be built owned and operated by Acciona in partnership with Ark Energy Corporation, a subsidiary of Korea Zinc Co, which took a 30 per cent stake in the project last month.

The second 103MW project, called the Karara wind farm, will be built – also by Acciona – next door to the MacIntyre project by Queensland state government-owned utility, CleanCo, taking the overall capacity of the wind energy hub to a whopping 1026MW.

“This will be a central energy generator for CleanCo and will significantly bolster its portfolio of low-emission energy assets – owned by Queensland, for Queensland,” said Queensland energy minister Mick de Brenni this week, following news of the project’s approval.

CleanCo has also signed a 10-year power purchase agreement with Acciona to take the output from 400MW of the main MacIntyre project, which will also now deliver clean power to another Korea Zinc subsidiary, the Townsville based Sun Metals zinc refinery.

CleanCo CEO Dr Maia Schweizer said the project’s approval was a significant step forward for a significant project in Queensland’s renewable energy landscape.

“With this project we are harnessing wind with a profile that perfectly complements solar energy – that allows us to provide reliable, affordable low-emissions energy to our large commercial and industrial customers using our unique portfolio, and is an important step toward unlocking Queensland’s potential to generate and use globally competitive clean energy,” Schweizer said.

Deputy Premier Miles said said the Acciona project was expected to provide up to 400 local jobs during construction, with an additional 240 jobs for the construction of the 64km transmission line, and 14 full-time jobs once in operation.

“Acciona also expects its local spend during construction to exceed $500 million, which is great news for the Southern Downs, Goondiwindi, and Toowoomba communities,” he said.

“I’m pleased that Acciona have committed to our government’s Buy Queensland approach to use a local workforce and suppliers on this $1.96 billion project,” Minister de Brenni added.

“This will deliver significant economic benefits for the Darling Downs and beyond, and more renewable megawatts as the state works to reach its 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030.

“The commitment to a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030 has already enabled more than $9.9 billion of investment since December 2016 and created 7,000 construction jobs.”

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