Queensland officially opens its first completed large scale wind farm

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Ratch’s 180MW Mt Emerald Wind Farm first in a pipeline of wind farms to be built as Queensland aims for 50 per cent renewables.

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Queensland’s first truly large-scale wind farm – and for a short time the state’s biggest – has been officially opened by developers RATCH-Australia, south west of Cairns.

The 180MW Mt Emerald Wind Farm was formally welcomed to the Sunshine State’s grid on Thursday, as the first of an impressive pipeline that includes the under construction 453MW Cooper’s Gap project.

RATCH-Australia’s executive general manager Anthony Yeats said the company was proud of the “spectacular” 53-turbine wind farm, which first started powering up in August of last year.

“It’s now generating a significant quantity of safe, clean, renewable electricity for North Queensland,” Yates said.

“We’re thrilled with the way local people have embraced the wind farm and look forward to the project contributing to Queensland’s energy transition for many years to come.”

As we reported here, the $400 million wind farm had a rocky road to approval, before finally getting the green light from the notoriously anti-wind Coalition federal government in November 2015, marking a change in sentiment in the national market and the arrival of large-scale wind energy in Queensland.

Before then, Mount Emerald had come up against significant local opposition, and in June 2014, then Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney called in its development application, taking responsibility for approval away from the Mareeba Shire Council.

Once approved, the project sealed a power purchase agreement in 2016 with regional utility Ergon to buy all its output until 2030, to help the network and energy retailer meet its renewable energy targets.

Financial close followed soon after, with finance from ANZ, NAB, Societe Generale and the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFJ).

In comments at the Thursday launch, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the Mt Emerald Wind Farm, located near the town of Mareebra, was part of a renewable energy boom happening in the state.

“Queensland has more than 2400 megawatts of large‑scale renewable energy capacity operating already. Almost 900MW more of large-scale renewable capacity is currently financially committed or under construction,” she said. Most of that 2,400MW is large scale solar.

“Together, these projects represent more than $5 billion in capital investment and more than 4500 constructions jobs in regional Queensland.

“The Mt Emerald Wind Farm will supply 500 million kilowatt-hours of renewable electricity every year, which is enough to power 80,000 homes a year, the equivalent to supplying about one third of the Far North’s energy needs.

“Construction has also boosted the local economy with around $66 million of direct investment into the Far North, about 200 positions filled by local workers and 20 businesses in the region winning contracts.”

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