The Queensland state government has stepped in to back a major wind and battery storage hub in the state’s far north, just weeks after the federal Coalition government did an about face and vetoed a major loan facility at the last minute.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Friday the state would invest $40 million to upgrade transmission lines as part of the first step in the creation of a Northern Queensland Renewable Energy Zone.
This, in turn, would allow French renewable energy developer Neoen to go ahead with its planned $373 million investment in the 157MW Kaban wind project, which also has approvals for a large battery storage facility.
Palaszczuk said the transmission work undertaken by Powerlink would create 90 construction jobs, while the Kaban wind project would create another 250 construction jobs for locals. And other wind and solar projects will also be unlocked by the investment.
“Renewables create jobs and put downward pressure on power prices,” she said. “That’s why backing our renewables sector is an important part of our economic recovery plan.
Just a few weeks ago, federal resources minister Keith Pitt stunned the industry by vetoing at the last moment a loan facility from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility for Kaban, on the basis that he didn’t think it would lower electricity prices.
Later, in a train-wreck of an interview on Sky News that some compared to the infamous “Yes, Minister” TV series, Pitt – an electrical engineer – refused to concede that battery storage provides dispatchable power.
Queensland energy minister Mick de Brenni said Pitt’s intervention “didn’t stack up” and described it as a deliberate attempt to block renewable energy.
“The Morrison Government turned their back on this project – rejecting the 250 jobs it will create for workers,” de Brenni said.
“The Morrison Government is hopelessly conflicted on renewable energy, even going so far as to ignore large-scale storage in the region to veto Kaban under the guises of dispatchability.
To support the Kaban project, Powerlink will upgrade an existing transmission line south of Cairns, from 132kV to 275kV, which the government said will open up the Far North Queensland region for further investment in wind and solar.
It follows final investment approval for the Kidston pumped hydro storage project, which will provide 2,000MWh of storage and support more wind and solar in the region.
Neoen Australia managing director Louis de Sambucy said Neoen was thankful to the Palaszczuk Government and Powerlink for their support. The company also has a long term off take agreement with the government-owned generator CleanCo for the bulk of the output from Kaban.
Neoen also announced on Friday that it will use – for the first time in Australia – Vestas turbines for the new wind farm, and will deploy 28 of its 5.6MW turbines built from its new EnVentus platform.
The turbines – the biggest to be deployed in Australia to date, with a tip height of 230m – will arrive in the first quarter of 2022, with commissioning scheduled to commence in the fourth quarter of 2022.
“We are also grateful to those in the wider community who have advocated for the project and the benefits it will bring,” de Sambucy said in a statement.
The project will lift Neoen’s portfolio to more than 2GW of operating or under construction assets in Australia, including the Hornsdale wind farm in South Australia and the neighbouring Hornsdale big battery, a string of solar projects in Victoria and NSW, the biggest solar project in Australia (400MW Western Downs) in Queensland, and the Victoria big battery, which will also be the biggest in Australia.