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.
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.
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.