Green tick sought to double size of Australia’s biggest wind farm

Image: Acciona Energia

Spanish energy giant Acciona Energia has filed for federal environmental approval for a proposed one gigawatt wind project that will effectively double the size of what will already be the country’s biggest wind farm.

The Herries Range wind project – first unveiled in late 2022 – will more than double the size of the 923 megawatt (MW) MacIntyre wind precinct near Millmeran in south-east Queensland, and is part of a wind precinct dubbed “Big Mac”.

The neighbouring 160-turbine MacIntyre wind farm is already nearing completion, and Acciona says Herries Range will see up to another 176 wind turbines, three substations and an unspecified battery storage facility.

The Herries Range project was originally costed at $2 billion when announced nearly two years ago, although costs may have increased since then since the Macintyre component also ran into cost issues.

Acciona says it hopes to start early works in 2025, followed by full construction through to approximately 2027. The wind farm will have an operational life of approximately 30 years.

The wind projects are located in south-east renewable energy zone in the southern downs region of Queensland, on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range.

But they are also in the federal electorate of Maranoa, held by Nationals leader David Littleproud, who has said he wants to stop large scale wind and solar projects across Australia, and has threatened to tear up contracts written by the Commonwealth to support such developments.

In its application under the federal EPBC Act, Acciona says community support for the Macintyre component has grown significantly since construction began, with support for the project increasing from 49 per cent in Q3, 2023 to 58 per cent in Q1 2024.

It says opposition to the MacIntyre wind project (20 per cent of respondents) had decreased by one third over this period and was lower than community opposition to the renewable energy transition generally (40 per cent of respondents).

The project will be spread over around 22 freehold properties, about half of which is used for grazing and the other half featuring remnant and high value regrowth vegetation.

The MacIntyre wind component is 70 per cent owned by Acciona and 30 per cent by Ark Energy, the renewable energy offshoot of Korea Zinc. It was to include a 100 MW facility known as Karara that was to be owned by the state government owned CleanCo, but CleanCo backed out of the deal because of connection delays and rising costs.

The 923 MW MacIntyre facility will still be the biggest in Australia when complete, although it will lose that title when the 1,300 MW Golden Plains wind farm in Victoria completes its first and second stage. MacIntyre could then retake the title as the biggest wind precinct if the Herries Range component is built.


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