A Queensland government-backed plan to develop a remote, hybrid renewable microgrid combining concentrated solar thermal, solar PV, gas peaking and battery storage has called for expressions of interest to build the project.

Queensland energy minister Mick de Brenni said the call was out for Queenslanders to build what could be Australia’s largest hybrid generator, generating 50MW of cleaner, cheaper energy for Mount Isa and the wider North West Minerals Province.

The $600 million North West Queensland Hybrid Power Project, also known by its unwieldy acronym NWQHPP, was first proposed last year by thermal solar specialist Vast Solar.

It will trial a unique brand of concentrated thermal solar generation alongside a more traditional microgrid mix of solar PV gas and battery storage, to power the area cut off from the National Energy Market.

The project received financial backing in May from the Queensland government-owned energy giant Stanwell Energy,  which will provide $5 million towards a feasibility study, with Vast Solar also providing $5 million.

Vast Solar CEO Craig Wood said on Thursday the call for expressions of interest was another significant milestone as the two companies worked through the feasibility study and got closer to turning soil on site.

“We are looking forward to hearing from a range of contractors who will be critical in bringing this project to life,” he said.

“Building the plant will require collaboration between local, regional and national experts from a range of fields, and will involve hundreds of workers from Mount Isa and the surrounding area.

“Vast Solar has been engaging local contractors to deliver various services at the proposed project site since July 2020, and we look forward to continuing our commitment to providing local employment opportunities.

“We’re ensuring the project is developed in conjunction with local contractors and government wherever possible.”

Minister de Brenni said the call out for the NWQHPP was another vote of confidence from industry that Queensland was the place to invest in the future of energy.

“The Palaszczuk government is supportive of new clean energy innovation on the path to our 50 per cent renewable energy target,” he said.

“That’s why our publicly owned generator Stanwell is partnering with Vast Solar to develop feasibility options for electrifying the resources sector with dispatchable, low-cost, reliable clean energy.

“The development of the proposed NWQHPP will need a highly-skilled workforce during the two-year build and dozens of permanent skilled jobs over the 30-year life of the plant.

“It will demonstrate how renewables can provide continuous energy to power large industrial and resource businesses in the North West, because that ultimately means more Queensland jobs.”

The feasibility study for the project is expected to be completed in late 2021 and is one of several milestones that need to be passed in order to reach final investment decision and project approval.

The energy minister said Mount Isa could start to see power coming from the hybrid microdgrid as early as 2023, as part of a staggered construction program that would brings some elements of the plant into operation early.

Article originally published by Renew Economy

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