Australian Economy

“Golden age of renewables” hailed at official launch of Australia’s biggest wind project

Spanish energy giant Acciona Energía has hailed a “golden age of renewables” at the official launch event for the start of construction at Australia’s biggest wind farm to date – the 1.026GW MacIntyre project in Queensland.

The start of construction of the $2 billion project was first announced by Acciona last month, as we reported here, but the official celebrations were held on Thursday at a “sod turning” ceremony event with the state minister at the site about 60kms west of Warwick in south-west Queensland.

“I believe MacIntyre is the start of a golden age of renewable energy in Australia. One that takes full advantage of our renewable resources with projects that help drive and develop our regional economies,” said the head of Acciona Energía in Australia Brett Wickham.

“MacIntyre is the largest project Acciona Energía has undertaken anywhere in the world and will be our flagship development for many years to come.”

The project will be a welcome addition to the grid in Queensland, which is suffering the highest electricity prices in the country due to its near total reliance on coal, and because of the surging price of coal and gas and some major coal outages.

Queensland has a 50 per cent renewables target by 2030, but has so far delivered less than 20 per cent. The state government is expected to announce a “plan” to fill that gap later this year.

MacIntyre will help fill the gap, along with other projects currently under construction, including the Dulacca and Kaban wind farms, and the 400MW Western Downs solar project, which will be the biggest in the country, at least for a time.

State energy minister Mick de Brenni said the mega project is further evidence of the government’s “long-standing commitment to renewables, which would keep downward pressure on electricity prices.”

The MacIntyre precinct – which will include 180 Nordex turbines rated at 5.7MW each and with a tip height of 235m – is actually two projects in one.

The MacIntrye wind farm itself will comprise 162 turbines and 923MW of capacity, while the adjoining Karara wind farm, comprising 18 turbines and 103MW of capacity, will be directly owned by Queensland government utility CleanCo.

CleanCo also has a contract to take some of the output of the main MacIntyre facility, as does Korea Zinc, which is minority shareholder of MacIntyre and intends to use its share of the output to help its Sun Metals refinery in Townsville become one of the first producers of green zinc in the world.

“With our equity offtake from MacIntyre we plan to accelerate the decarbonisation of our sister company’s zinc refinery in Townsville as part of their ambition to be one of the first major refineries in the world to produce green zinc,” said Daniel Kim, the head of Korea Zinc’s local offshoot Ark Energy.

The precinct will create over 450 direct jobs during construction with an additional 220 jobs supported by Powerlink to build the transmission infrastructure. It expects to be operating in 2024 and will employ 15 staff to maintain the site.

Additionally, the precinct will also source $500 million in work from Queensland suppliers further fuelling regional businesses.

“Australia has such an abundance of renewable energy resources. All across the country, projects like MacIntyre can harness and capitalise on this opportunity to realise a new golden age,” Wickham said.

“Large scale renewable projects lay new foundations that support larger local economies and create new employment opportunities for those living in the area.

“MacIntyre will avoid about 3 million tonnes of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere. It shows that renewable energy projects can both achieve our climate goals as well as create hundreds of real jobs and bring in hundreds of millions of new investment in the process”.

CleanCo Chair Jacqui Walters said that the MacIntyre precinct will help to support CleanCo to deliver reliable, clean energy solutions at a competitive price for customers helping them thrive in a net zero future.

Powerlink Chief Executive Paul Simshauser said on-ground work had started this month to deliver two new switching stations and 65 kilometres of new transmission line to connect the massive wind precinct to the grid.

“At more than one gigawatt, this is easily Powerlink’s largest connection project to date,” Simshauser said.

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