Massive 1,200MW Wide Bay wind farm gets kick start from state government

Wind Farm Western Australia macquarie pipeline - optimised

Queensland is set to be host to one of the southern hemisphere’s largest wind farms after the Queensland government facilitated a deal that will see the 1,200MW Forest Wind project built in the State’s south-east.

Plans for the Forest Wind project would see the construction of 1,200MW of wind turbines in Queensland’s Wide Bay region in the state’s south-east, as part of a $2 billion investment that will significantly boost the state’s renewable energy generation.

Once operational, the Forest Wind project would be one of the largest wind farms in the southern hemisphere, and would provide enough power for more than 550,000 homes, and would create up to 440 new jobs during the construction phase of the project and an additional 50 long-term operational jobs.

“This is enough power for all homes across the Wide Bay-Burnett, Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast combined, or the entire Brisbane City Council area,” Queensland minister for state development Cameron Dick said.

“This could increase Queensland’s installed power generation capacity by approximately nine per cent.”

The project is the result of facilitated negotiations by the Queensland government, that culminated in the creation of a joint venture between Noosaville based project developers CleanSight and investors Siemens Financial services.

“Siemens has a long and proud history in Queensland and Australia dating back almost 150 years,” Siemens Australia CEO Jeff Connolly said. “The company has provided critical leading technology supporting infrastructure and industry – ranging from energy to water, transport, agribusiness, manufacturing, mining and resources, healthcare and even sugar and beer.

“This new partnership and joint venture is a natural extension of our relationship.”

The Forest Wind project has been progressed as part of Queensland government facilitated negotiations between project developers and investors, under the government’s “investment facilitation” initiative, administered by the Queensland Government’s Investment Facilitation and Partnerships Group.

“This group aims to provide a clear entry point for major investment projects and a customised and streamlined pathway to decision-makers across government,” Dick added.

The Queensland government have offered the project an “exclusive transaction”, which will see the government streamline and prioritise its engagement with the project, in recognition of its scale and contribution to the Queensland economy.

The project will be developed on lands that currently consist of state forests, with the Queensland government confident the wind farm will be able to operate in harmony with the pine timber plantations.

By utilising the space within the pine plantations, the project will effectively establish a 3 kilometre buffer zone between the project and the closest residential areas.

“We will work closely with Forest Wind Holdings to leverage complementary opportunities for improvements in fire protection and road access in the estate, and to ensure there is minimal impact on timber production,” HQPlantations CEO Jeremy Callachor said.

The project will now undergo the usual planning approval process, but the proponents believe construction could commence by the fourth quarter of 2020, with the first electricity being generated sometime in 2023.

There is a substantial pipeline of new renewable energy projects proposed for Queensland, estimated to be more than 18,000MW of proposed generation. If the Forest Wind project is completed, it would dwarf Queensland’s largest wind farm, the AGL’s Coopers Gap project which is under construction, which will have a maximum capacity of 453MW when completed.

Michael Mazengarb is a Sydney-based reporter with RenewEconomy, writing on climate change, clean energy, electric vehicles and politics. Before joining RenewEconomy, Michael worked in climate and energy policy for more than a decade.


12 responses to “Massive 1,200MW Wide Bay wind farm gets kick start from state government”

  1. juxx0r Avatar

    The big question is whether electricians will be required to bolt the blades on.

  2. Honest Mike Avatar
    Honest Mike

    … and will they be coupled with ultrcaps or some other way of buffering the intermittency problem?

  3. Glynn Palmer Avatar
    Glynn Palmer

    Michael, I note your comment that 453MW Coopers Gap wind farm is still under construction. From my monitoring of wind generation in Qld, I was disappointed to find that I haven’t seen a total above 150MW. Coopers Gap was scheduled to be completed by late 2019, but an AGL web site has completion now in 2020.The 43MW Kennedy wind farm was also scheduled for completion in 2019, but a Qld government web site still classifies it as under construction.

    So current wind generation in operation must be the 180MW Mt Emerald,12 MW (nearby) Windy Hill, 0.5MW Thursday Island (which has been generating since the 90’s), and some from Coopers Gap and Kennedy.

    Wind will continue to provide renewable electricity after the solar fuel has retired into the daily sunset. The 250MW Kidston pump hydro was supposed to help here but market conditions have delayed its construction.

  4. john rattray Avatar
    john rattray

    Depending on the geographic scale of the project, diversity or rather lack of it could be interesting. 1,200 MW is a very large on / off change in flows.

    1. Craig Fryer Avatar
      Craig Fryer

      Wind generally doesn’t switch on and off like a solar farm does when a cloud goes across a solar farm. Even then it would be rare for a solar farm to switch on/off. It is more a ramp up and down for a large scale solar farm. Over the next 5 to 10 years you will see most large VRE projects have some battery storage on site. The electricity is more valuable when backed by a battery and the cost of large scale batteries will continue to fall as manufacturing capacity increases.

      Also this project needs to be viewed in the context of another six to ten wind projects of 1GW scale throughout SE QLD.

  5. Craig Fryer Avatar
    Craig Fryer

    I am pleased to see that it is to be built in a pine plantation, not koala habitat.

    Now can be have another six like this ASAP.
    I note there is no statement on estimate completion time. I suppose because construction is probably 2 to 3 years away with all the planning and environmental aspects to be covered.

  6. Andrew Roydhouse Avatar
    Andrew Roydhouse

    Given all the bushfires et al.

    With reports of several plantations being destroyed – I hope they have planned for the eventuallity – otherwise it could be a very expensive lesson.

    By definition they are to be built in wind prone areas – so any bushfire in that region….

  7. Arnold Garnsey Avatar
    Arnold Garnsey

    I see here: “as part of a $2 billion investment that will significantly boost the state’s renewable energy generation.”
    Linked below: “up to 226 wind turbines” ~ 5MW ea so not the biggest.
    Wondering if that is more relevant to the numbers required for commercial ventures or a high quality location. Certainly a large install.

  8. Ian Avatar

    Why does the article not give details on which state Forests will be infected by this project which will be developed post haste and with unbridled favouritism “ exclusive transaction , streamline and prioritise” ( am I the only one to smell a rat?

    Many of Queensland’s state forests include large blocks of untouched native vegetation and include plantations. Tuan state forest borders the great sandy strait which separates Fraser Island from the mainland. It contains some true wilderness areas that are so near to civilisation but so remote that no one has even heard of them. Defacing unspoilt areas without thorough environmental studies and the scrutiny of the wider community is unacceptable even if it is for such a good cause as wind farms and renewable energy.

    This may well be a bone fide and environmentally sensitive state- energy building project, but if it turns out to be a sneaky and opportunistic land grab then many people will be very upset.

  9. Jon Avatar

    I really hope this gets off the ground, Qld desperately needs some wind RE to compliment the current solar.

    Looks like it’s between Maryborough and Gympie.

  10. Captain Pugwash Avatar
    Captain Pugwash

    This is great but I would like to see more work on a transition away from coal for communities that depend on and essentially vote for it. Climate is a global issue and while local renewable energy generation is essential we also have a State Labor government that wants profits from selling thermal coal in mega quantities while securing the working class coal vote.

    As a green left leaning person I do care about people’s livelihoods as well as the environment. I just watched a Guardian interview with Paul Keating from April 2019 and he seemed to get the renewables shift, yet current Labor wants to sell more coal while claiming action on climate. It’s a global balance sheet and I’m starting to look for ways of not giving Labor my vote by default at the next election unless they show some intelligence on this issue. You can’t claim to understand the science then undermine it by facilitating burning Australian coal in overseas markets. This needs to be part of the conversation. This wind project needs to be part of reducing emissions, not just outsourcing them at a profit.

    Maybe each article in renew should have a balance sheet at the bottom keeping an overall carbon score. 1 leaf point for a wind farm but 100 against for supporting Adani. Each positive or negative Point/segment could link to a related article. Have a time scale setting to highlight more recent (hopefully smarter) behaviour given that we are turning around the Titanic.

  11. Seriously...? Avatar

    So is this a commitment…?

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