Powering North Queensland Summit Recap

The Powering North Queensland Summit was held in Townsville last Thursday (August 31, 2017). It had some fantastic media coverage and over 200 companies were represented. It was a great event to show off how far solar has come in North Queensland since last year and was run as a joint initiative of the Australian Solar Council and the Energy Storage Council. 

Powering North Queensland Summit Recap

Powering North Queensland Summit 2017
Powering North Queensland Summit – Townsville, 2017 (source: solar.org.au)

John Grimes of the Australian Solar Council and Battery Storage Council told the summit that Queensland has $6.8 billion of investment in the pipeline. The 31 large-scale solar projects, four wind / solar / storage hybrid plants, and one pumped hydro project will generate more than 6 gigawatts of power, with the vast majority of them being located in North Queensland. It’s estimated that this represents around 3,200 jobs as well.

Grimes also said that that PV solar is now the cheapest source of electricity worldwide, where it, along with wind, costs around 30 AUD per megawatt hour. “We are getting to the point where the cost of solar PV is so cheap it’s basically following the cost trajectory for glass. The glass and aluminium frame are the most expensive components,” Mr Grimes said, according to the Townsville Bulletin.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk also addressed the Powering North Queensland summit, discussing the $199m 300 hectare Sun Metals solar farm which will be built next to its $1b zinc refinery in Townsville.

“What we are seeing is private investment of $2 billion and $1.6 billion in north Queensland … upon completion Sun Metals will be the largest single site user of renewable energy. This is a unique project and is a great example of an innovative company investing in its future and North Queensland.”

Apart from the usual political posturing and petty point-scoring, Palaszczuk also highlighted the Government’s $1.16b Powering Queensland Plan, which hopes to provide electricity price relief for the state by investing $770m to offset the Solar Bonus Scheme. Other initiatives were also discussed, and the Premier reiterated the QLD Government’s commitment to a 50% RET (Renewable Energy Target) by 2030.

To read the premier’s full speech, please click here.

North Queensland Renewables Boom Interview

John Grimes of the Australian Solar Council and Rachel Watson, the GM of Australia Pacific Hydro, were also on Radio National last Saturday discussing the Haughton Solar Farm in Townsville and the other myriad solar projects currently in various stages of construction/planning across North Queensland. You can listen to the show on the ABC website by clicking here.


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500MW Haughton Solar Farm Greenlit

Burdekin Shire Council have greenlit a massive 500MW Queensland solar farm in Haughton to be built over the next eight years. The Haughton Solar farm will be built by the Australian owned and operated Pacific Hydro, who have already built ~750MW of solar in Australia, Chile, and Brazil. Pacific Hydro, founded in Australia in 1992, also have a number of additional development projects with a potential capacity of 1.7GW.

Haughton Solar Farm

Haughton Solar Farm Location (source: pacifichydro.com.au)
Haughton Solar Farm Townsville

The Townsville Bulletin is reporting that the farm will be built on a 1,181 hectare plot of land in Upper Haughton, on Keith Venebales Road. It’ll create 240 jobs during construction an ongoing operation and maintenance will employ 10 further employees. It directly adjoins an existing 275kV Powerlink transmission line, so presumably it’ll connect directly to the National Electricity Market (NEM). No word yet on Power Purchase Agreements or if they’ll go the route of Eco Energy World and sell directly on the spot market.

According to the Pacific Hydro website, the region has one of the highest levels of solar irradiance in Australia, with 2,095 KWh/m² per annum. The 500MW farm, which will be built over three stages in the next eight years, will eventually product 500MW of PV solar and is a massive boon for the area and renewable energy in Queensland, which is seeing massive investment in the area of solar over the last few months. At full capacity, the Haughton Solar Farm is expected to generate enough solar power for around 170,000 homes.

Burdekin Shire Council Mayor Lyn McLaughlin has noted that if won’t have an effect on the environmental aspect of the land: “If the solar farm becomes unviable or past its operational lifespan, the land can be converted back to agricultural land unencumbered.” McLaughlin noted that the approval is still subject to some conditions, such as upgrading of the road which will be used to access the project – but it looks like the project will go ahead without too much trouble.

The solar farm, which will consist of 1,000,000 solar panels, should pass the tender process within the next couple of months and construction will commence early next year.

Click here to view a project overview and location from the Pacific Hydro website.

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