Plans to build one of the largest onshore wind farms in the Southern Hemisphere on government-owned forestry land in Queensland’s Wide Bay-Burnett region have gained new momentum, with legislation to fast-track the project passing through state parliament late last week.
The massive 1200MW Forest Wind project, a joint venture between global engineering giant Siemens and Queensland renewables outfit Clean Sight, was granted state government approval in February.
The project proposes to install up to 226 turbines in state forest used as pine plantations between the towns of Gympie and Maryborough, in a similar approach to that proposed by French renewable energy developer Neoen, which is looking at a 900MW wind project and battery hub in western Victoria.
State Development Minister Kate Jones said last Thursday that the Forest Wind Farm Development Bill 2020, tabled in May, had been voted through state parliament, marking a new milestone for the project.
The Bill is designed to cut red tape for the project to operate on actively managed exotic pine plantation licence areas in the Toolara, Tuan and Neerdie State forests.
As the project’s website explains in more detail here, it establishes a legislative framework for the project to coexist with the plantation licence and to otherwise be undertaken in the state forests through exempting the project from certain provisions in the Forestry Act 1959 and the Land Act 1994.
According to the developers, the site was selected to capture the south-easterly wind blowing in from the Pacific Ocean onto the Queensland coast, as well as to mitigate potential community impacts on landscape, ecology and acoustic amenity – current plans put a distance of at least 3km between turbines and residents.
Forest Wind would also be well-positioned on the network, the developers say, connecting directly into the southeast Queensland grid and feeding into one of Australia’s largest and fastest-growing electricity demand centres.
“The legislation passed today is absolutely vital to ensure this project can proceed to the next stage,” Jones said on Thursday.
“Forest Wind could be a game-changer for our state Queensland. It has the potential to generate up to 1,200 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply one in four homes in our state and move us closer to our target of 50 per cent renewables by 2030.
“If it goes ahead, this project will be one of the largest grid-connected wind farms anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere,” she said.
From here, the project will continue to be advanced through the Palaszczuk government’s Exclusive Transactions framework, a process offering a pathway for complex private sector commercial proposals.
“Forest Wind is the kind of project we’re keen to deliver,” said Member for Maryborough Bruce Saunders. “The proposed project will maximise the value of already established forestry land and create jobs in the region.”
Forest Wind is hosting Community Engagement Sessions this week at Poona Centennial Hall on Wednesday August 19 from 12.30pm to 5pm, and on August 26 at the Bauple Band Hall from 12.30pm to 5pm. Meetings are scheduled as 30-minute sessions for up to 10 people at a time in keeping with Covid-19 safety measures.