Confidence returns in renewables investment

Wind energy
Wind energy

Several projects have been restarted as a direct result of legislation for Australia’s revised Renewable Energy Target (RET) passing in June, with the promise of no additional reviews until 2020 reinvigorating investor confidence in the renewables space.

Collinsville solar power plant, Ararat Wind Farm and White Rock Wind farm got the ball rolling in early July, with Ratch Australia saying it hopes to start construction as early as next year.

The $100 million solar plant in Collinsville, a mining town in the coal-rich Bowen Basin region of central Queensland, is estimated to create up to 80 jobs in the construction phase and around three once operational.

The original plan for Collinsville was for a 20-30MW solar facility to produce approximately 40-50GWh a year of electricity; enough to power up to 7500 Queensland homes. Whether the size of the plant has changed isn’t known at this stage.

The solar farm will be developed at the site of the Collinsville Power Station, a coal-fired power generation facility shuttered in 2013. Collinsville was Ratch’s only coal-fired plant in Australia.

Last July, Ratch Australia’s then executive general manager development Geoff Dutton said more than $5 million had been spent on feasibility studies looking at converting the old coal-fired power station at Collinsville into a solar thermal station. However, while it was technically possible, it was not economically feasible.

Talking with ABC News, Mr Dutton said the policy framework did not support investment in technology and there was no way private enterprise could fund such a project without government support.

The studies found the old power station could not be transitioned for new technology and costs were going to be significantly higher than initial estimates, with an overall increase of 84 per cent.

The Collinsville facility will be Ratch-Australia’s first solar project, with the company’s other renewable energy projects being Toora Wind Farm, Victoria (21MW), Windy Hill Wind Farm, Queensland (12MW), and Starfish Wind Farm, South Australia (34.5MW). The company said it plans to invest in approximately $1 billion of power generation assets within the next five years, according to Energy Matters.

Preparations are also under way for the construction phase of White Rock Wind Farm in New South Wales to commence late this year.

Owners of the wind farm, Goldwind Capital Australia, has also announced TransGrid will connect White Rock Wind Farm to the NSW transmission system.

The NSW Government approved construction and operation of up to 119 wind turbines at the site to the north of the state, between Glen Innes and Inverell. Seventy wind turbines will initially be constructed at the site as part of stage one.

Goldwind said it will install its 2.5MW permanent magnet direct drive (PMDD) wind turbines, which have a 121m rotor diameter. Once operating, stage one of the White Rock Wind Farm will have enough capacity to supply up to 75,000 average households. The facility should be operational by mid-2017, as reported by Energy Matters.

Nonetheless, the storm is not over for solar and wind developers, with the Federal Government directing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to no longer back wind energy projects or solar investments other than the largest industrial-scale projects.

The Australian Wind Alliance said the Prime Minister is wrong to say private investors no longer need the CEFC in the wind and solar industries.

“They’re still tentative when it comes to investment across the full range of renewable technologies, including wind farms,” Alliance national coordinator Andrew Bray said.

The Tasmanian Government insists it still supports renewable energy development, despite the Federal Government directing the CEFC to stop investing in wind energy.