Townsville is the sunniest city on Queensland’s coast. Its impressive solar and wind resources, and location, mean there’s nowhere better to build new manufacturing and export industries that can power the economy now and into the future.
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, senior economists are calling for Australia to embrace renewable energy manufacturing to provide much-needed employment. We should be using our incredible renewable energy advantage to create cheap electricity that can then be used to process minerals here – instead of having the ore shipped overseas for processing. Likewise, we can build a new industry manufacturing renewable energy components because many of the minerals are mined here in Australia.
Already businesses all over—from shopping centres, local businesses, and even large industrial energy users—are turning to renewables backed by storage to safeguard themselves against rising power prices and keep their operations competitive.
Below are three examples of how renewable energy is already creating new jobs and turbo-charging Queensland’s economy.
Sun Metals – using cheap energy to power Townsville’s zinc refinery.
A $200 million solar farm at the site of Sun Metals’ Townsville zinc refinery is providing cheap electricity to the facility, helping to keep their operations competitive. The refinery already employs over 350 staff members, mostly from the local community, and an extra 100 ongoing jobs are being created as the plant expands.
The $300 million expansion will see zinc production increase from approximately 225,000 tonnes per year to 270,000, and investing in affordable renewable energy is a key piece of the puzzle that has made the expansion possible.
“For Sun Metals, wind and solar generation offer the most competitive power prices,” said Sun Metals’ former CEO, Yun Choi.
Imperium3 – bringing advanced battery manufacturing to Townsville.
Plans for a $3 billion battery manufacturing plant in Townsville are moving ahead as Australia and the rest of the world make the switch to renewable energy backed by storage.
The 18GWh lithium-ion battery factory is expected to create 1,150 direct jobs when in full operation. The manufacturing plant is being proposed by a consortium of Australian and American companies, who recently submitted a feasibility study to the Queensland Government.
Clean energy manufacturing can help future-proof jobs in Queensland’s regions, and provide a well-paid alternative for workers transitioning out of traditional industries. The Imperium3 consortium is also consulting with James Cook University about education and training for the plant – helping to provide more opportunities for young people living in Townsville.
Renewable hydrogen – exporting Queensland’s world-class sunshine to the world.
Australia has some of the world’s best solar and wind resources, so as the world moves towards a low-emissions future, we are well-placed to utilise our natural clean energy assets to begin exporting our sunshine to the world. Hydrogen fuel can be created from 100% renewable sources, shipped overseas, and then used to create electricity – and clean water is the only bi-product of the process. Countries such as Japan and South Korea will likely have a high demand for renewable hydrogen in the decades to come, but have limited landmass and renewable resources to meet this rising demand.
According to CSIRO: “Capitalising on this growing demand for hydrogen could result in an export industry worth $1.7 billion by 2030, and could provide 2,800 jobs. Most of the jobs created by this new industry are likely to be in regional areas.”
One way to establish this emerging clean energy industry is to develop Renewable Energy Industry Precincts: sites powered by 100% renewable energy where hydrogen manufacturing facilities and heavy industry are co-located. By utilising shared infrastructure, having access to cheap energy and reducing the need for the transportation of renewable hydrogen, new and existing industries can achieve economies of scale and stimulate job creation in regional Australia.
Already, similar precincts are attracting excitement in Townsville, Gladstone and Barcaldine! And in Townsville, there are already several renewable hydrogen projects proposed.
Ross River Solar Farm
CopperString 2.0: Using Renewables to Expand Operations in the North West Minerals Province
The North West Minerals Province (NWMP) is a huge area surrounding Mt Isa that has mineral and rare earth element deposits that are known to be worth $680 billion. The area is rich in commodities that will be in high demand as the world transitions to renewable energy because they are key components of clean technology.
But at the moment, industry and mining operations in and around Mt Isa are hamstrung by high electricity prices because they have to rely on expensive gas-fired generation. Mt Isa is not connected to Australia’s main electricity grid and this is stopping the local industries from expanding.
To solve this issue and allow for more renewable energy generation to come online in Queensland, the Copperstring 2.0 transmission line is proposed to connect Mt Isa to Australia’s main grid close to Townsville. The transmission line will go directly through some of Australia’s best co-located solar and wind resources, allowing new clean energy projects to come online.
Connecting the NWMP to cheaper solar and wind energy will drive down electricity prices and facilitate the expansion of mining operations: creating 3,560 full-time jobs and unlocking $54 billion for the Queensland economy. Having access to cheaper renewable electricity will also unlock the possibility of processing more minerals here – instead of shipping the mined ore overseas for processing.
Like the sound of creating a bright, prosperous future for Queensland with our incredible solar and wind resources? Take a moment to sign our open letter, calling on Queensland's leaders to turbocharge renewable energy manufacturing.