Queensland’s energy revolution

The Palaszczuk government in Queensland came into power with a policy for 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030. Giles Parkinson says:

    The state of Queensland appears ready to embark on what could be one of the most radical transformations of its electricity network ever undertaken – even by standards of ambitious mandates in places such as California, Germany and Denmark.

Plans include solar, wind, pumped storage, bioenergy and an enhanced research capacity.

Queensland is the only state that is looking at increased future demand, because of the booming LNG industry.

Queensland currently has two state owned utilities, Energex and Ergon. Energex supplies the Southeast corner. Parkinson says Ergon:

    can lay claim to being the biggest grid with the lowest population density in the world. It covers 97 per cent of the state and has on average 4 customers per kilometre. That provides massive challenges, and huge opportunities, both in innovation and in grid transformation.

Given that the grid already exists, Ergon CEO, Ian McLeod, says:

    “We have to apply the technology where it makes sense and integrate the new technology into the extremities of the network, pull back from the edges, use storage, tariffs and price signals to reduce our spend on network augmentation by sharing and increasing utilisation of available resources.”

The state will use the reverse auction system, so successful in the ACT.

A new Queensland-based Productivity Commission has been established to investigate, among other things, a “fair price” on solar.

Queensland already has the highest rooftop solar penetration of any state. The possible projects outlined below would put it on the world map in terms of large-scale renewables.

Genex 150MW solar PV plant with pumped hydro storage

Genex are proposing to use the old Kidston mine 270km north west of Townsville near the township of Georgetown to build a world first combined solar and pumped storage project.

The company site is here.

Windlab proposal to build the world’s biggest wind-solar hybrid plant

Windlab, a spin-out from the CSIRO now based in Queensland, is proposing to build the world’s biggest wind-solar hybrid plant.

    CEO Roger Price wants to build a 600MW wind farm alongside a 600MW solar PV farm, near Hughenden, around 300kms inland from Townsville.

    He has brought in Eurus, an offshoot of the Japanese industrial giant Toyota, as a partner, and together they have agreed on a $120 million first stage of the project.

    Price says the combination of wind and solar will deliver around 80 per cent of local electricity demand, and at a cost significantly less than a new coal-fired generator proposed by some local business groups.

Bulli Creek Solar Farm

Australia’s Solar Choice and US solar giant SunEdison have received approval to build the proposed 2GW Bulli Creek mega solar project in southern Queensland, which could be the largest in the world once fully developed.

The site will be 150km west of Toowoomba and was chosen in part because of its close proximity to a 330 kV power substation located along one of the main transmission lines spanning the NSW-QLD border, just west of the Great Dividing Range. The plan is to start in 2016 and build in stages over eight years.

Other projects

Sophie Vorrath looks at the whole range of projects.

    …south of Townsville, the Australian arm of Spanish renewable energy developer FRV has plans to build a 150MW grid-connected solar PV farm which would deliver up to 80 per cent of local electricity demand at rates cheaper than a new coal plant. Canadian Solar also has a 90MW project ready.

Adani Group, best known for its coal interests in the Galilee Basin, has reportedly met with landowners in the Isaac Regional Council to gauge their interest in hosting a large-scale solar farm.

QU sets up for solar research

Queensland looks set to host the largest solar research project in the country. Earlier this year, construction was completed on a 3.275MW solar PV array at the Gatton campus of the University of Queensland. Battery storage is being added.

    The array includes fixed tilt, single axis tracking and dual axis tracking, and is about to install battery storage – and also has two of the most sophisticated power system laboratories ever built in Australia.

    In the next month, a 760kWh battery storage system, using Kokam technology and installed by MPower, will also join the facility.

    Professor Paul Meredith, the director of UQ Solar, says the facility is one of the most sophisticated and largest research solar PV pilot plants in the world.

They will be studying everything from network integration to how often you should wash your solar panels. It may also look at “the biomass and biogas opportunities from the Gatton campus, which focuses on agriculture and has large piggeries and vast amounts of cellulosic waste, offer some interesting alternatives.”

    The project is being led by UQ’s Global Change Institute and US-solar manufacturer and developer First Solar, with UNSW also taking a prominent role.

    It is being funded by a $40.7 million grant from the Education Infrastructure Fund, a leftover of the now defunct Solar Flagships program. UQ and First Solar are contributing several million further in investment and in kind.

Concluding comments

The remaining question is how far down the track the Palaszczuk will get before the next election, when the climate denying LNP may well take. Elsewhere South Australia is well down the track and may reach 50% renewables next year.

13 thoughts on “Queensland’s energy revolution”

  1. Sounds fantastic Brian and hopefully parts of it will actually survive change of government hazards. It suggests a major policy shift from 2012 :
    Note the comments on the Archer Point wind farm (Cooktown) that suffered under all governments and remains in a coma. It is weird that a solar farm is being developed just down the road at Lakeland despite Archer Point being identified and one of the best wind sites. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-17/jemena-wins-negi-gas-pipeline-preferred-bidder-in-nt/6947746

    Actually the activity you list is rather like the old Copper String project that was around about five years ago. See:
    http://www.statedevelopment.qld.gov.au/resources/project/copperstring/eis-executive-summary.pdf That project had a string of power sources laid out between Townsville and Mt Isa and included many of the concepts you list.
    The project collapsed when Mt Is Mine was allowed to install two large gas turbines for its own and the township use. Now there are plans to build a pipe from the NT to Isa to deliver gas.
    The ABC has a good (updated November 2015) coverage here:
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-17/jemena-wins-negi-gas-pipeline-preferred-bidder-in-nt/6947746 This project, according to the ABC involves a lot of fracking to deliver the fossil fuel gas.
    Both projects under one of the two Anna’s and the latter may have had some LNP input.

    There is speculation about the ownership of Powerlink who apparently own the large transmission poles and wires. One suggestion is that it be merged into Ergon.

    I am not sure if Queensland is having an ” energy revolution”. I suspect it is flummoxed, writhing on the ground and trying to determine a new way forward under the pressures it now finds itself. At least the reaction is more than words and embraces some more creative thought.

  2. One of the positive outcomes of the Paris agreement may be that it will become politically more difficult for state governments to wind the clock back on sustainability.

  3. Val, yes, increasingly there will be nowhere to hide.

    Geoff, Powerlink “owns, develops, operates and maintains the high voltage electricity transmission network” and is itself owned by the government. I think the Palaszczuk Government policy is to merge Ergon, Energex and Powerlink. From the few bits I have heard Ergon and Energex seem to have very different corporate cultures and I’m not convinced that there are significant savings to be made.

    Just heard that work has begun on the $69 million 90-hectare Barcaldine solar farm project, notably with support from ARENA and the CEFC, both of which Turnbull’s mob would like to abolish.

  4. ……and is itself owned by the government.

    If I could have any small influence at all on this blog and it’s guests, in the little time I have left, is that Governments, past, present and future OWN nothing.

  5. Sounds good. No more crap about putting a price on carbon. Finally talking about adopting things like using competitive tendering to set up contracts to supply renewable power that I have been rabbiting on about for years.
    All we need now is for the government to divert all those subsidies from the fossil carbon industry to renewable energy and it would be even better.

  6. Thanks, Jumpy.

    Energex and Ergon will be merged and the new company based in Townsville. 360 jobs will go and they are looking for $680 million in savings. Both numbers seem incredible to me!

    I sure hope they know what they are doing!

  7. Yes pretty neat stuff Jumpy. There is another system that uses a small book-size solar panel that charges a battery for an energy source. Both around the same price. I like the gravity version because it can be re-loaded any number of times.

    The LED lights offer a profound social change in many cultures. It can immediately enable reading after dark greatly assisting education. That will impact upon the social norms of that community and may have unintended consequences.
    Another “revolution” that greatly improved eye-health outcomes is a flued stove. Traditional indoor cooking ruins the eyes because of smoke. Newer internal stoves are much more efficient but the best is a stove that vents outside the hut. Both these systems are vastly more efficient and again both offer profound social change. (Less wood burnt good for the environment. Less wood collected by young girls enables schooling for them, eyesight remains unaffected by smoke and combined with LED light allows after-dark reading.)
    The point is that the consequences of the energy revolution go beyond the moderation of our CO2 levels.

  8. Val: ” Governments don’t own things – we the people do.”

    Yet government offers “our” assets to us and we buy them. E.g. Qantas, Comm Bank, ports and many more.

    But if governments keep selling stuff off then that is consistent with Jumpy’s hope that government owns nothing.

  9. Geoff I suspect the Qld government has stuffed up in appointing Paul Simshauser as head of the Department of Energy and Water Supply, It may even be one step forward and two back!

    Qld does have a problem, I understand, that solar only affects the shoulder, not the peak.

  10. We will see soon enough. There is another push for Daintree power looming. One of the rumours involves a ” state-of-the-art” approach. The proponents are seeking a non-disclosure agreement from government before submitting. I have little insight but suspect that there will be a partial extension of the grid, likely dictated by the terrain. Over the range is the secret bit which might unfold over the next months or so.

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