Australia’s largest publicly owned wind farm could be built in Queensland 

Wind farm at sunset

Queensland could be set to build Australia’s largest publicly owned wind farm, following the announcement of a $776 million funding injection for the Tarong West Wind Farm in the South Burnett. Here’s what you need to know about the project. 

The publicly owned Stanwell Corporation would build the proposed Tarong West Wind Farm, which would be located in the Southern Queensland Renewable Energy Zone. 

If granted final approval, the wind farm would be operational from 2026. 

In announcing the proposed project, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the wind farm would incorporate up to 150 wind turbines, generating up to 500 megawatts (MW) capacity – enough clean electricity to power up to 230,000 homes. 

“It will also create around 200 jobs during construction and 15 ongoing jobs when operational,” the Premier said. 

“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.” 

Stanwell CEO Michael O’Rourke said the commitment to the project, which could be built in a strategic partnership with global renewable energy giant RES, marks a significant milestone for the publicly owned corporation. 

“The Tarong West Wind Farm project supports decarbonisation of our existing portfolio and will help us to meet our customers’ demand for renewable energy products,” he said. 

“It will also provide future career development opportunities for our people.” 

What is Queensland’s clean energy target? 

The Queensland Government has a longstanding target of 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030. With the recent announcement of the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan, new targets of 70 per cent renewable energy by 2032 and 80 per cent by 2035 have also been set.   

To that end, the Queensland Government has committed to building the Queensland SuperGrid – the poles, wires, solar, wind and storage that will provide Queenslanders with clean, reliable and affordable power for generations – and preparing a long-term roadmap for connecting an additional 22 gigawatts (GW) of large-scale wind and solar generation to the grid by 2035.  This will represent a $62 billion investment from 2022 to 2035. 

In addition to these large-scale renewable projects, Queensland is also a leader in rooftop solar

With one in three homes now using solar, Queensland has the highest rate of household rooftop solar installations in Australia. More than 700,000 homes and small businesses across Queensland now have rooftop solar, generating around 4.1GW of clean energy. 

Combined with the 3GW of large-scale wind and solar projects that are already connected to the grid, that brings the state’s current renewable capacity to 7.1GW. 

Large-scale batteries and other storage options, such as the $8 million battery that was recently connected to the grid at Tanby in Central Queensland, Stanwell’s proposed large-scale storage systems near Tarong Power Station and Stanwell Power Station, and two world-class pumped hydro generators announced as part of the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan, will help to firm the grid by capturing renewable energy generated on sunny and windy days and storing it for use during peak demand periods in the evening, increasing the state’s capacity for renewables. 

How will the Tarong West Wind Farm be funded? 

The Tarong West project will receive $776 million in funding from the Queensland Renewable Energy and Hydrogen Jobs Fund, which recently received a $2.5 billion boost from the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan, making it a $4.5 billion Fund. 

The Fund is intended to allow government-owned energy corporations, such as Stanwell, to increase their ownership of commercial renewable energy and hydrogen projects, as well as supporting infrastructure, including in partnership with the private sector. 

To be considered for The Queensland Renewable Energy and Hydrogen Jobs Fund, projects must support additional renewable energy generation and storage capacity in Queensland, while also demonstrating commercial value and creating new and ongoing employment opportunities. 

Treasurer Cameron Dick said the Tarong West project would boost Stanwell’s current asset portfolio and provide substantial commercial value, which ultimately benefits all Queenslanders. 

“Ownership of Tarong West Wind Farm ensures Stanwell Corporation will have dispatch control of significant renewable generation capacity,” he said. 

“In the past four years, the Palaszczuk Government has delivered up to $575 of dividends to Queensland electricity customers via asset ownership dividends and cost of living rebates.

“All that money – nearly $1.19 billion – has gone back into the pockets of Queenslanders instead of corporate shareholders.

“That’s only possible because Queenslanders own a significant stake in the state’s electricity assets.”

Where would the Tarong West Wind Farm be located? 

The proposed wind farm would be located at Ironpot, 30 kilometres south west of Kingaroy. It would sit within the Southern Queensland Renewable Energy Zone, one of three designated regions established across the state to accelerate clean energy projects. 

New wind and solar generators are connecting to the grid at a rapid rate throughout Australia, but many of them are located in sunny or windy areas at the edges of the electricity grid. These remote locations are often serviced by relatively weak transmission lines with lower voltage, which can lead to transmission loss as energy flows to consumers.

Renewable energy zones (REZs) are a way to combat this problem. These regional hubs connect multiple renewable energy generators and energy storage technologies in the same location, and pair them with high-voltage poles and wires, so that renewable energy can efficiently reach the homes and businesses that need it with minimal transmission loss. 

This unlocks areas of high investor interest, streamlines the development of new projects, and helps to foster jobs and growth in the regional economies where the zones are located. 

The Queensland Government is developing Queensland Renewable Energy Zones (QREZs) in northern, central and southern Queensland. 

Home to a diverse mix of industries and energy sources, and in close proximity to the cross border interconnector linking Queensland’s state grid to New South Wales, the Southern QREZ where the Tarong West Wind Farm would be located already has a strong pipeline of prospective projects with high investor interest. 

Injecting more renewable energy into the grid in southern Queensland will help the agribusiness sector to slash emissions and reduce energy costs. The government has also identified the transport sector – especially the region’s freight network – as one that would benefit from utilising more clean energy.  

You can learn more about Queensland’s Renewable Energy Zones here

What’s next? 

A final decision on the Tarong West Wind Farm is expected in 2024. If approved, construction would also commence in 2024, with commercial operations from 2026. 

In the coming weeks, we’ll unpack more details about the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan, and how it will help transform the Queensland energy system to deliver clean, reliable and affordable energy to provide power for generations to come.

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