Queensland shortlists 10 big renewable and storage projects for CleanCo contracts

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Queensland announces 10 wind, solar and battery storage projects that will compete for contracts with newly formed CleanCo.

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The Queensland government has finally moved forward on its Renewables 400 auction, announcing 10 big renewable and storage projects that will compete for contracts with the newly formed Cleanco generator,. which will begin trading at the end of October.

The 10 projects shortlisted by the Queensland Labor government total more than 2,000MW of wind, solar and battery storage capacity, and include some of the most ambitious and biggest hybrid projects in the country. That were chosen from more than 100 applications made two years ago.

The shortlisted projects include Goldwind’s 800MW Clarke Creek wind farm with battery storage near Rockhampton, Acciona’s 540MW McIntyre wind farm  near Stanthorpe, and Neoen’s Kaban renewable hub, including battery storage, near Ravenshoe.

The rest of the projects are itemised in the table below, and include proposals from Edify Energy,  First Solar, Infigen Energy, Lyon Infrastructure, Pacific Hydro, Vena and Windlab.

Most are listed in north Queensland, where there are heavy system constraints and projects will either require new infrastructure and/or synchronous condensers. (See map further down in the story).

The RE400 program was first unveiled in 2017, seeking up to 400MW of large scale wind and solar and up to 100MW of storage, and while the Queensland government promised to fast-track the process, nothing had been heard of it since then.

Energy minister Dr Anthony Lynham recently blamed the lack of federal policy for the delay, but it also now seems clear the government was waiting for the creation of CleanCo, a new state owned generator that will focus on “clean” technologies and compete with existing coal-focused generation companies Stanwell and CS Energy.

The government says CleanCo will seek “binding bids” from the shortlisted projects later this year, and Cleanco will recommend projects to government early next year.

The bids will need to be updated because costs will have changed significantly since the original offers were lodged two years ago, and while solar and battery storage costs have fallen, connection and commissioning hurdles have also increased.Details of the exact bid requirements are not clear, but RenewEconomy understands that the original tender sought the ability of batteries to store around 10 per cent of their output, suggesting around 130MWh of storage capacity would be required.

Some of the shortlisted projects have already been built – at least the renewables component (such as Haughton solar farm) – so will presumably be bidding in storage only.

CleanCo which will bring together leading names such as Miles George (ex Infigen CEO and Clean Energy Council chair), and Ivor Frischknecht (ex Australian Renewable Energy Agency CEO), is to have a mandate to secure at least 1,000MW of new renewable generation and storage.

Its “starting pack” of assets include the little used 570MW Wivenhoe pumped storage hydro station, the 385MW gas-fired Swanbank E power station and the Kareeya, Barron Gorge and Koombooloomba hydro power stations. All are being shifted across from  Stanwell and CS Energy.

Lynham says CleanCo will commence trading in the national electricity market on October 31, and will be working with the 10 short-listed renewable energy proponents to boost its starting pack.

“This will increase competition and supply in the Queensland electricity market, putting more downward pressure on electricity prices for Queenslanders,” Dr Lynham said in a statement.

“Preliminary analysis indicates CleanCo should reduce wholesale electricity prices on average by around $7 per megawatt hour, which is expected to translate to an estimated $70 per annum saving for the average Queensland household

“There’ll be more new jobs building these projects in regional Queensland and the extra generation will also make our power supply even more reliable.

Lynham said the contracts to be signed with the chosen project will take Queensland “one step closer” to the Labor government’s target of 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030.

He noted that the target, is not supported by the LNP.

“Going by their track-record in government, when not one large scale renewable energy project was built, there’s no doubt they’ll see CleanCo as another Queensland-owned energy asset to sell.”

The announcement further underlines the gap between the federal government and the states, with the Queensland and Victoria Labor governments both aiming for 50 per cent renewables by 2030, and the South Australia Liberal government looking to increase their renewables share from 50 per cent now to a “net” 100 per per cent” by 2030.

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