The first large-scale wind farm to be built in Queensland, the 180MW Mount Emerald project near Mareeba, has reached financial close and will begin construction next month.
The $380 million Mt Emerald wind farm, to be built by RATCH-Australia, is receiving finance from ABZ, NAB, Societe Generale and the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFJ).
Earlier this year, it received a power purchase agreement from regional utility Ergon to buy all its output until 2030, to help the network and energy retailer meet its renewable energy targets.
Queensland currently has just 12MW of wind energy (out of a national total of 3,500MW), located at small wind farms in Ravenshoe and Thursday Island, although projects such as Windlab’s Kennedy wind park and Infigen Energy’s Forsayth wind project are also in the pipeline.
The Queensland government’s advisory panel envisages around 2,200MW of large-scale wind power in the state if the Labor government goes through with its 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030.
Mt Emerald is one of the first big wind projects to be built anywhere in Australia in recent years following the Coalition government’s attack on the large-scale renewable energy target and its decision to cut it from 41,000GWh to 33,000GWh.
Other wind farms have also been built, or are under construction, such as Ararat, Hornsdale, Coonooer Bridge, Sapphire and Crookwell, but these have been built with 20-year contracts issued by the ACT government under its policy to reach 100 per cent renewable energy by 2020.
The only other large-scale wind farm to begin construction under the RET, the Goldwind White Rock project in northern NSW, is being built without yet receiving a contract or off take agreement from a major retailer.
The lack of investment in large-scale renewable energy, because of federal policy uncertainty, has helped push prices of large-scale renewable energy certificates to near their “penalty” price of $92/MWh.
The Mt Emerald wind farm will use 53 Vestas turbines, and will be built by subcontractors Consolidated Power Projects (CPP) and Civil & Allied Technical Construction (Catcon). All the equity in the project will be provided by Ratch. The Bank Group was advised by Herbert Smith Freehills.
“This has been a huge team effort from many different parties over a long period, and we are proud to be delivering a project which is not only low carbon but which will meaningfully add to North Queensland’s energy security,” Ratch business development manager, Anthony Yeates, said in a statement.
“This significant milestone means we can finish off the planning and get on with construction of this project.”
Minor works, geotech studies and site survey work are scheduled to begin in December, with full construction likely to begin ramping up from March 2017 after the wet season. The wind farm is expected to be operational by September 2018.
The project will provide up to 150 construction jobs, while 15 permanent jobs would be created to operate the wind farm.