By HARRY CLARKE
CONSTRUCTION of a mega solar farm being built near Chinchilla is powering ahead, reaching the milestone of connecting to the national electricity grid.
The so-called Western Downs Green Power Hub is the largest solar project in Australia, set to produce 400 megawatts once it’s completed and employing up to 800 workers during peak construction.
The Caller revealed in June this year that the $600 million build was running slightly behind schedule, but in a statement today Queensland energy minister Mick de Brenni announced a significant step forward for the project.
“Powerlink’s completion of connection works marks a significant milestone for the project and continues progress towards achieving the Government’s 50 percent Renewable Energy Target by 2030,” Mr de Brenni said.
“Once complete, this solar farm will generate enough electricity for more than 230,000 Queensland homes – equivalent to powering a city four times the size of Toowoomba.
“This record-breaking project near Chinchilla is backed by government-owned clean energy company, CleanCo, which has committed to purchasing 320MW of the solar power produced.
“An economic assessment by Aurecon estimates the project will generate more than $850 million in overall economic activity for Queensland, with 25 per cent expected to be spent in the Western Downs region, helping communities affected by drought and the impacts of COVID-19.
“The ongoing economic benefit is estimated at around $32 million per year for the Queensland economy, 90 per cent of which is expected to directly benefit the Western Downs region.”
Powerlink Chief Executive Paul Simshauser said grid connection works, which supported 28 jobs, involved building six kilometres of new transmission line and connection works at Powerlink’s existing Western Downs Substation.
“This newly-built transmission line feeds into Neoen’s Hopeland Substation, which has also now been energised to help transport the renewable energy generated at the solar farm to the National Electricity Market,” Mr Simshauser said.
“Following our project team’s commitment to achieving on-ground works safely and efficiently, we are proud to mark completion of our construction activities. We look forward to working with Neoen to undertake final testing and commissioning in coming months as solar farm development continues to progress.”
CleanCo Queensland chair Jacqui Walters said the Western Downs Green Power Hub would add significant renewable energy capacity for Queensland.
“The 320MW of solar energy we’ve secured from this project joins CleanCo’s unique portfolio of wind, hydro and gas generation and enables us to offer reliable, low emissions energy at a competitive price for our customers,” she said.
“We have a mandate to bring 1,400MW of new renewable energy online by 2025 and through projects like the Western Downs Green Power Hub we will do this while supporting growth and jobs in regional Queensland.”
Neoen Australia’s Managing Director Louis de Sambucy (pictured above) said: ‘We would like to thank Powerlink and congratulate everyone involved for their hard work and dedication in reaching this important project milestone.
“The team remains mobilised towards finalising construction over coming months and we’re looking forward to delivering affordable renewable energy to CleanCo and Queensland”.
The Western Downs Green Power Hub will produce more than 1,080 GWh per year, the equivalent to avoiding 864,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.