Queensland windfarm to provide enough power for 1.4m homes with new $2bn investment

<span>Photograph: Darren England/AAP</span>
Photograph: Darren England/AAP

One of Australia’s biggest windfarms will double its capacity to 2,000 megawatts, providing enough power for 1.4m homes and accelerating Queensland’s exit from fossil fuel-sourced electricity.

Spain-based Acciona Energia announced on Monday it would extend a windfarm already being built within the MacIntyre Precinct, a region about 200km south-west of Brisbane.

That first stage involves just under $2bn in investment and the construction of 180 wind turbines, each standing about 230m high with 5.7MW of capacity. The MacIntyre region is being developed in partnership with CleanCo, the Queensland government’s renewable energy arm, and has an expected start date in 2024.

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“With this project we expect to dramatically accelerate the decarbonisation of Queensland’s electricity grid,” said Acciona’s managing director in Australia, Brett Wickham. “Workers can move from one large-scale project to the next whilst staying in the same area.”

The state’s premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said the expansion plan was “a strong endorsement that Queensland is a renewable energy superpower”.

Two months ago, Queensland announced a $62bn plan to accelerate its decarbonisation efforts, including an end to coal-fired power stations by as early as 2035. Up until then, the state had been the national laggard in terms of the share of renewable energy in the grid.

The announcement of another $2bn to be pumped into renewables comes days after the Clean Energy Council said new commitment for large wind and solar plants had hit the lowest level in at least five years in the September quarter.

Just one new project, at 400MW, reached financial close during the period, down almost two-thirds on a year earlier. The council blamed policy uncertainty in recent years – particularly at the federal level – for the investment slowdown.

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Known as the Herries Range project, Acciona’s extension would also host 180 wind turbines and support as many as 600 additional jobs during construction, the deputy premier, Steven Miles, said.

The state’s energy and jobs plan boasts more than 50 large-scale renewable energy projects that are operational, under construction or have reached financial commitment from developers, the government said.

Prior to Monday’s announcement, New South Wales had signed up the most new projects and capacity over the past year, with eight projects accounting for more than a third of new projects and 65% of new capacity nationally, according to the Clean Energy Council.

Victoria had the next most with six new projects accounting for 19% of new capacity, while Queensland had six projects (at 6% of capacity) and WA with three projects (and 4% of capacity).

Acciona’s focus on windfarms rather than solar may be a template for other big energy companies.

AGL Energy, for instance, has plans to invest as much as $20bn over the next decade or so into renewables and storage as its coal-fired power plants close. Its focus is likely to be on wind rather than solar energy because of the need to complement rather than compete with the spread of solar panels on households across the country.