‘Field of dreams’: Queensland plans to build Australia’s largest publicly owned windfarm

<span>Photograph: David Gray/REUTERS</span>
Photograph: David Gray/REUTERS

Australia’s largest publicly owned windfarm could be built in Queensland, with the state government planning to spend $776m in the state’s west.

The premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said the funding would help Queensland become a “global renewable-energy superpower” and comes just days before the release of a 10-year energy plan for the state.

The government wants approvals completed by 2024 to allow the state-owned Stanwell Corporation to build the 150-turbine windfarm near Tarong, which would be able to generate 500MW of electricity.

Climate campaigners said building large renewables projects was positive news but the state needed a plan to phase out its coal-heavy energy fleet.

Queensland is the biggest state emitter in Australia, but its 2030 emissions reduction target of 30% is also the weakest of any state.

“It’s investments like this that will ensure we deliver on our net zero ambitions and our promise to Queenslanders to become a global renewable-energy superpower,” Palaszczuk said.

The new Tarong West windfarm is slated for a site at Ironpot, 30km south west of Kingaroy, and would generate enough electricity to power 230,000 homes and create 200 construction jobs.

Leading renewables builder and operator RES will work with state-owned Stanwell corporation to build Tarong West, which could be operational by 2026 and employ about 15 people.

Palaszczuk made the announcement on Monday against the backdrop of the privately owned Coopers Gap windfarm under construction near Kingaroy.

“This is a field of dreams,” Palaszczuk said.

She promised “one of the biggest announcements our government has ever made” when she details the energy plan later this week.

The government wants 50% of electricity to come from renewables by 2030. Palaszczuk said renewables currently account for 21%.

Queensland’s energy minister, Mick de Brenni, said the state’s energy transition and public ownership of renewables was “the greatest opportunity our state has seen for generations”.

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Public ownership meant having greater control over the energy system as it transitions away from fossil fuels, he said.

“If governments step up we can secure our state and our nation’s energy independence. The best way is to build more cheap clean renewable energy,” de Brenni said.

Jason Lyddieth, a Brisbane-based clean energy and climate campaigner at the Australian Conservation Foundation, welcomed the windfarm announcement, but said the government needed a plan to retire its fossil-fuel generators.

“Queensland is Australia’s highest emitting state and one of the biggest jurisdictions for per-capita emissions anywhere. Only Alberta in Canada and Qatar are worse,” Lyddieth said.

“The state is also going hell for leather with new mines and gas fields. The government needs to get serious and have a plan to get off fossil fuels.

“Having a 2030 target of just 30% when the federal government has a 43% target is completely untenable.”

On Monday the Queensland Greens released a proposed schedule to close the state’s eight coal-fired power plants by 2030.

Greens MP Michael Berkman said the state’s energy plan needed to bring forward closure dates for coal power “and set out a jobs and income guarantee for transitioning coal workers”.