Queensland has welcomed the news this week that work has begun on the 120MW Gangarri solar farm that is being developed by oil major, Shell, near Wandoan in the state’s south west.
State energy minister Anthony Lynham said on Friday that construction had begun on the Gangarri project, which he added would wind up being able to generate enough clean energy to power 50,000 homes.
Only it won’t be powering Queensland homes, but fossil fuel generators, instead.
As Lynham went on to explain, Gangarri will generate power for QGC’s natural gas processing plants, “showing how gas as a transition fuel and clean energy assets can coexist.”
Queensland, he boasted, was providing the world with “a practical template on how to transition to low emissions future.
“The Darling Downs and South West Queensland is literally an energy powerhouse, these regions have developed the unprecedented large scale $70 billion onshore gas industry from a standing start, now it hosting some of largest clean energy generators in the country.”
It’s a bit of a mixed message, given that gas isn’t – technically speaking – a clean energy resource. The best we can probably say for it is that it is less emissions-intensive than coal; which in heavily coal-dependent grids like Australia’s – and Queensland’s – has given it the sheen of a “vital transition fuel” in the fight against climate change.
But, as David Leitch wrote here on Thursday, “the world no longer has the head room to use gas a transitional fuel. If gas replaced all coal in electricity generation, an impossibility in of itself, the world would still have well over 2°C of average global warming.”
Shell, like other oil majors around the world is making slow but significant moves into renewable energy development and generation – and is setting up to become a major electricity utility, and has bought Australia’s ERM Power to launch that business.
But on Friday it delivered its own back-handed tribute to solar power, saying it would play an increasing role in the global energy system, “especially when partnered with a reliable energy source” like gas.
“This is Shell’s first global investment in an industrial-scale solar farm, and we are proud to be investing in the ‘Sunshine State’ as a key centre of activity under Shell’s global ambition to expand our integrated power business,” Shell Australia chairman Tony Nunan said is a statement.
Meanwhile, Shell Australia’s advertising department seems to be just as confused about how to sell the company’s first big foray into solar. Apparently, Gangarri will be bigger than 80 million pizzas. But it doesn’t say how many croissants, or smashed avocados.
See video below.