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23 November 2022

10 GW North Queensland hydrogen, wind and solar superhub

Two Australian companies, the well-known metals group Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) and Windlab, a renewable energy asset manager, have agreed to partner on a 10GW wind and solar farm with the goal of industry-scale green hydrogen production in the Eastern state of Queensland.

The first stage of the proposed project includes the 800MW Prairie Wind Farm and the 1000MW Wongalee project and is currently in detailed planning, with land agreements in place and the application for development approval for Prairie Wind Farm planned for submission in the coming months.

Subject to approvals, construction on the first stage is expected to commence in 2025 with the projects anticipated to begin to produce power by 2027. Energy generated from the project stands to produce green hydrogen as well as feed renewable power to the grid.

Green hydrogen has been highlighted as a solution for decarbonization across a range of sectors, including, transport, industrial and energy storage. According to research conducted for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, demand for hydrogen exported from Australia could be over three million tons per year by 2040, injecting up to $10 billion into the economy annually.

Mark Hutchinson, the CEO of FFI, said that the opportunity is a game-changer for the state of Queensland in its attempt to decarbonize. He also recognizes the vast natural resources that the country possesses and its need to shift away from fossil fuels: “For the first time, the North Queensland Super Hub will provide the quantity of renewable energy we need to support large-scale green hydrogen production right here in Queensland. The environmental and economic opportunities that can stem from this are significant, both in terms of lowering emissions and reducing reliance on fossil fuels, and in terms of local job creation.”

With a strong solar irradiance ranging from 2290 kWh/m2 to 2630 kWh/m2, the state of Queensland represents a prime location for such a project that will help Australia reach its goal of 43% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and net zero emissions by 2050. In 2020 Australia has generated about 90% of total energy from fossil fuels – a third coal, a third natural gas and a third oil – with only 4% coming from renewables like wind, solar and hydro with the rest coming from biofuels and waste.

FFI will partner with leading renewables developer Windlab on the North Queensland Super Hub, leveraging Windlab’s decade-long presence in the region including developing and operating Kennedy Energy Park, a world-first hybrid wind, solar and battery storage facility near Hughenden.

The Kennedy Energy Park, constructed at the end of the previous decade, consists only of 30MW of wind turbines, 20MW of single axis tracking solar panels and 2MW of Li-ion battery storage, costing $120 million. The park was connected to the grid in July 2021 and is expected to undergo a $2 billion upgrade. This will see the park capable of delivering 1.2GW of renewable energy.

The Queensland hub announcement comes on the back of FFI’s investment in establishing the world’s largest electrolyzer manufacturing facility in Gladstone, worth $83 million. The plant will have a capacity of 2GW and will be able to deliver 200,000 tons of green hydrogen per annum, that will be used by FFI to produce green ammonia in Gisborne, New Zealand.

Moreover, FFI and the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan have agreed to work together to explore the potential delivery of renewable energy projects and green hydrogen production in Kazakhstan.

The Framework Agreement signed between the two parties will allow them to explore potential projects for renewable energy sources and green hydrogen production in several regions of Kazakhstan, including Atyrau and Mangistau – areas rich with water and wind resources.

Kazakhstan though has already signed deals around renewables and green hydrogen production, which can be accessed here.