Queensland state owned utility CS Energy has signed an agreement that will seal the go-ahead of the first wind farm to be built in Australia by the renewables offshoot of French nuclear energy giant EdF.
The deal is still at the MoU stage, but it appears that CS Energy is looking to buy both an equity stake and secure an off take agreement in the 230MW Banana Range wind farm, around 120kms from the central Queensland city of Gladstone.
EdF Renewables unveiled the Banana Range project just over a year ago, the first of a series of wind and solar investments it intends to make in Australia, and part of a global push to build 60GW of wind and solar capacity around the world by 2030.
The agreement with CS Energy encompasses only the wind farm, which is now sized at a lower capacity than the previously announced 280MW, and EdF says it is still looking to a 100MW big battery, for which it already has planning approval.
The wind farm will be built near Biloela, near the Callide coal fired power station that blew up one of its turbines last year, and adjacent to major transmission lines.
CS Energy CEO Andrew Bills said in a statement the MoU complements recent investments the publicly-owned power company has made in renewable hydrogen and energy storage.
“This MoU demonstrates CS Energy’s commitment to securing a balanced mix of energy sources that can meet our customers’ requirements while also supporting Queensland power system security and reliability,” Bills said.
The head of EdF Australia, Dave Johnson, told RenewEconomy that the company has a significant 3000MW pipeline of wind and solar projects in Australia, but is yet to unveil them, apart from the 400MW Malabar solar farm in the Hunter Valley.
“Banana range is our flagship project, but we do have a lot of other projects in australia,” Johnson said.
He said the significance of the agreement is the two companies working together in a region currently dominated by coal generation, and opening up opportunities that will be affected by the energy transition.
“It’s an ideal partnership that brings together like-minded companies working together on common interests, which includes maximising opportunities for the local community through the energy transformation,” he said.
The agreement was unveiled on Wednesday morning by Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who said the project would create 150 new construction jobs, and brought the number of committed new wind and solar farms in Queensland since 2050 to 50.
Construction of Banana Range will begin in 2024 – two years behind the original schedule flagged last year, mostly due to supply constraints in the industry, and is expected to come online in 2026.
Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen Mick de Brenni said the project would help CS Energy built local capacity and create employment and training in local communities for the “renewables revolution.”