Wind and solar power proponent calls for certainty on energy policy

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott’s dislike of wind farms could jeopardise a $2.5 billion renewable energy project in North Queensland which its proponents say would provide cheaper and more sustainable electricity than a new coal-fired power station.

However, the Coalition’s Townsville-based MP, Ewen Jones, said he would be willing to argue the case for Hughenden’s Kennedy Energy Park if it was “the best way forward”.

Private company Windlab is promoting development of a 1300 megawatt wind and solar farm in the Flinders Shire, 300km west of Townsville.

Windlab CEO Roger Price said the government’s direction to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation this month to not fund wind and rooftop solar was causing uncertainty, while its support for funding coal-fired power through a $5 billion Northern Australia concessional loans facility would stack the market in favour of coal.

“Queensland needs additional generating capacity in North Queensland and the market should be left to decide,” he said.

“The $5 billion loan facility for Northern Australia is a good one but it shouldn’t be used to subsidise one technology over another.”

Windlab plans an initial phase of a combined 100MW scheme – 50:50 wind and solar – relying on existing transmission infrastructure to connect to the grid, while a larger project of up to 1300MW, the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere, would require an upgraded transmission line.

“What we have found is that not only do we have a world-class wind resource, we also have a world-class solar resource,” Mr Price said.

Mr Price said the Kennedy Energy Park could deliver power into North Queensland at “around $100/MW hour’’.

Flinders Shire Mayor Greg Jones said the council was ­supporting Windlab and another potential solar proponent with “small” financial contributions and called on state and federal governments to do the same.

Herbert MP Ewen Jones said he was keen to be involved in an energy roundtable being organised by Townsville Enterprise to find the best way forward.

“I’m not philosophically opposed to anything,” Mr Jones said.

“If the best way forward includes wind (energy) I will argue for it.”

Note: Original story was published on townsvillebulletin.com.au