The Queensland Government has granted development approval for one of the largest grid-connected wind farms in the southern hemisphere, Forest Wind.

Queensland Minister for Planning, Cameron Dick, said the Wide Bay-Burnett region project, which is proposed to comprise of up to 226 turbines, would provide a huge boost for the local economy.

“If it proceeds, this project could create around 440 jobs during construction and a further 50 full time jobs during operation,” Mr Dick said.

“This is a major clean energy project for Queensland and will contribute to our target of 50 per cent renewables by 2030.

Mr Dick said Forest Wind has the potential to generate up to 1200MW of electricity at capacity, which is enough to supply one in four Queensland homes, and enough power for all homes across the Wide Bay-Burnett, Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast combined.

“The wind farm is proposed to be developed within state forest land between Gympie and Maryborough, a unique location and a great example of coexistence between established southern pine timber plantations that support our forestry industry and new large-scale renewable energy.”

Queensland Energy Minister, Dr Anthony Lynham, said the project would join Queensland’s existing 5500MW of renewable energy capacity.

“Since December 2016, almost $5 billion has been invested in almost 2500MW of new renewable generation in Queensland, creating almost 5000 jobs,” Dr Lynham said.

Forest Wind Holdings Chairman, James Pennay, said the project’s location has been carefully selected to take advantage of the plantation’s large working environment.

“We have established a three-kilometre separation distance from residents to wind turbines to ensure industry, the local community and the environment can coexist harmoniously,” Mr Pennay said.

“We have been undertaking consultation with the local community and stakeholders and we are looking forward to continuing that engagement through the next phase of the project’s development, including with the Butchulla and Kabi Kabi first nation peoples.”

The wind farm, which is valued at around $2 billion, could increase Queensland’s installed power generation capacity by approximately nine per cent.

Member for Maryborough Bruce Saunders said the development approval is a significant milestone for the project and great news for jobs in the region.

“Forest Wind will be able to harness the Wide Bay-Burnett region’s great local wind resource, which flows in directly from the Pacific Ocean,” he said.

“Subject to final consideration and the company finalising all contractual agreements, construction could commence as early as the fourth quarter of 2020.”

Mr Dick said the project is being advanced as an Exclusive Transaction by the Queensland Government’s Investment Facilitation and Partnerships Group within the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning.

“This group aims to provide a clear entry point for major investment projects and a customised and streamlined pathway to decision-makers across government,” he said.

The project comes in addition to $37 million worth of electrical infrastructure currently underway in the Wide Bay to support the region’s future growth.

Dr Lynham said Powerlink had hit the halfway mark in a $33 million revamp of its 50-year-old Gin Gin Substation, and work is underway on a $4 million project to replace insulators on a critical transmission line between Gin Gin and Woolooga.

“These projects will secure an ongoing reliable electricity supply for major centres in region including Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Maryborough and Gympie,” Dr Lynham said.

“The transmission network in the Wide Bay area plays an important role in linking the south-east and Central Queensland, and supporting the area’s industrial, agriculture and tourism sectors.

“This is all about meeting the future energy needs of community and industry to support jobs and economic growth.”

The Gin Gin substation rebuild involves replacing old equipment and reconfiguring the network.

Powerlink Interim Chief Executive, Kevin Kehl, said the rebuild would ensure the substation met contemporary needs now and into the future 

“Project works have been planned to deliver key activities in stages to ensure ongoing security and reliability during construction,” he said.

Work has also started on replacing 1260 insulator strings and steelwork on 332 transmission towers between Gin Gin and Woolooga substations.

Dr Lynham said the 150km long transmission line – built in 1982 – played a critical role in transferring power across the Wide Bay region.

“This project ensures the transmission line will continue to operate reliably for its remaining service life and provide safe, reliable electricity for the entire region,” he said.

Innovative work practices are being used to replace the ageing insulators while the 275kV transmission line remains fully energised, or ‘live’.

This method minimises potential impacts on customers by avoiding the need for planned outages on the network.

The Gin Gin Substation rebuild project is scheduled for completion in late 2021, while works to replace insulators on the Gin Gin to Woolooga transmission line are expected to continue until mid 2020, weather dependent. 

For more information on Forest Wind, click here.

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