Powering up: State plans to take over $2.4 billion CopperString project

The State Government has admitted it was moving to take over the development of CopperString project, a $2.4 billion electricity generation scheme that was expected to open the vast north west of the state to minerals development and renewable energy.

Jan 25, 2023, updated Jan 25, 2023
Windlab's Kennedy Energy Park near Hughenden under construction. The project is likely to benefit from Copperstring. (Image: supplied)

Windlab's Kennedy Energy Park near Hughenden under construction. The project is likely to benefit from Copperstring. (Image: supplied)

The project, which is essentially an electricity transmission line from Townsville to Mt Isa, has been in various stages of feasibility for 15 years but has been given impetus by the demand for electricity in the north west minerals province.

The project could also provide the crucial transmission link for renewable energy projects around places like Hughenden that could then feed into national electricity market.

The Hughenden region has the rare capacity to be able to generate solar energy in the day and wind energy at night. Resources billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has already seen its potential and his Windlab company is developing a solar and wind farm in the region in what he has called an energy super hub that could eventually host 10 gigawatts of renewable energy

Planning has started on a first stage 800 megawatt Prairie Wind farm and the 1000 megawatt Wongalee project.

An ACIL report in 2020 found the CopperString project would return $4.54 for every $1 invested.

When asked about the project on Wednesday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said: “I’m limited in what I can say because there are commercial details happening at the moment, but the State is looking at taking over CopperString.

“My Government is very keen to do that and that will be our next big, significant project in this region. I’ll have more to say on that in coming months.”

Details about the government’s involvement were not released but Treasurer Cameron Dick has also previously said the government wanted all transmission in the state to be publicly owned.

Copperstring managing director Joseph O’Brien said the company had been in talks with the government for some months about a government-led development, but the company said details were confidential.

“We have been working very closely with the Queensland Government since we signed the Implementation Agreement and that collaboration is continuing very positively toward a government-led model,” he said.

“In the recent weeks we have seen AEMO (the Australian Energy Market Operator) nominate North Queensland the best renewable energy resource in Australia, and the International Energy Agency highlight the critical role that minerals housed in the North West will play in world, so CopperString coming to fruition will power Queensland to the forefront of the global energy transition.”

CopperString would also provide a push for the development of critical minerals like vanadium. Julia Creek has the one of the world’s biggest deposits of the mineral which is used in the development of grid-scale batteries.

The premier also announced an expansion of a vanadium demonstration centre in Townsville with funding of $75 million.

The facility was first announced in 2021 with $10 million in funding as a strictly vanadium demonstration facility that would help the fledgling industry develop.

But the extra commitment from the Government would allow for capacity increases and the addition of rare earths processing.

A number of companies, such as QEM, Multicom and Richmond Vanadium are in the process of developing or proving up projects near Julia Creek in the north-west of the state.

QEM managing director Gavin Loyden said he was thrilled with the Premier’s announcement.

“It shows the strong ongoing support by the Queensland Government to accelerate the development of emerging vanadium projects like QEM’s in north Queensland,” Loyden said.

“This will provide huge opportunities for the development of new Queensland industries downstream of the critical minerals extraction process, such as the vanadium redox flow batteries, vital to the shift to a clean energy future.”






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