Another major solar project is being proposed for the Queensland coal centre of Gladstone, with plans to develop a 300MW PV farm near Bororen submitted to the local council late last week.
The $400 million project, proposed for land in Rodds Bay, about one hour south of the regional city centre, is being pursued by a company called Renew Estate – a joint venture between German-based Wirsol Company and local outfit Beast Solutions.
Renew Estate said it had pinpointed Gladstone for the location of the solar farm due to its existing heavy industries, and the need for new, renewable energy supply, to replace the region’s ageing coal-fired assets.
As we have reported, Gladstone is home to Queensland’s largest single electricity generator – a 1,680MW coal-fired power station, which this year turns 42.
The region is also known for its busy shipping port, which is largely used to export Australian coal and, more recently, LNG.
More recently, though, it has been recognised – both my government and renewables developers – as a potential hub for new solar and wind farms.
In September 2017, five companies were short-listed to tender for the job of transforming government-owned land at Aldoga, at the base of Mount Larcom, into a 450MW renewable energy hub.
The potentially huge project is Energy Development Queensland’s flagship renewables effort, and a part of the recently re-elected government’s Advancing Our Cities and Regions Strategy, which aims to renew and repurpose underutilised state land to generate jobs, and drive economic growth.
Similarly, Renew Estate says it hopes its proposed Rodds Bay solar farm will become a “central pillar” to the Queensland region’s industrial ecosystem.
Indeed, it is just the first of two solar farms Renew Estate wants to build there before the end of next year, the second being at Yarwun – on the other side of Mt Larcom to the Aldoga project.
“Power prices are regularly identified as a major concern to industry groups, and a growing threat to Queensland industry and employment,” the company said.
“In addition to creating opportunities for local businesses, the project will provide broad support to local industry… through reducing energy prices and improving the sustainability of the regional supply chain.
“While (coal-fired power stations) will have a continued role in contributing to power supply and system stability, without the introduction of new supply, these ageing assets will likely pose a continual risk of energy security for our nation,” the company’s proposal states.
Renew Estate – which is head-quartered in Sydney – was launched in Australia in May last year, along with plans to develop a 1GW-plus project pipeline, starting immediately.
The company said that solar pipeline would include storage-ready projects, “ready for the next-generation of renewables development in Australia,” and suggested existing coal hubs like Victoria’s Latrobe Valley and the Hunter Valley in NSW were on its radar, as ideal for solar and storage.
Construction of the Rodds Bay solar farm – if approved – is expected to create about 300 jobs for 12 months, and after completion would employ between 3 and 10 full-time employees.
The company is seeking a development permit for a material change of use from the Gladstone Regional Council.