North Queensland is set to become a clean energy powerhouse, playing a key role in the delivery of the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan (QEJP) and the Queensland SuperGrid Infrastructure Blueprint. Powerlink is playing a critical part in actioning the QEJP, by facilitating the development of Renewable Energy Zones (REZ) and strengthening the transmission backbone network over the next ten to 15 years to transport growing volumes of renewable and stored energy.

As part of its important role in delivering the QEJP, Powerlink will drive the development of REZs, connect storage such as pumped hydro and support new load growth such as hydrogen and electrification of heavy industry.

A Renewable Energy Zone is a geographic area that has high-quality renewable resources, such as wind and solar, suitable topography and land available to support the connection of renewable projects. These zones allow multiple generators to be connected in the one location, producing cost effective, grid-connected renewable energy.

Far North Queensland renewable energy zone (rez)

The Far North Queensland REZ was the outcome of close work between Powerlink, CleanCo, the Queensland Government and renewable energy developer Neoen as part of the 157MW Kaban Green Power Hub Connection Project.

It encompasses the northernmost extent of Powerlink’s transmission network, running from Townsville to Cairns. Through the REZ approach, Powerlink can optimise how renewable energy is connected to the existing power system in order to provide a safe, secure and reliable energy supply at the lowest possible cost to customers.

It also encourages cost-effective connections for generation customers and optimised provision of system services. Importantly, the REZ approach generates benefits to local businesses, communities and landholders through coordinated development and investment.

North Queensland capacity upgrade project

To support the Far North Queensland REZ, Powerlink initiated the North Queensland Capacity Upgrade Project in September 2021. This work involves upgrading an existing 132kV transmission line between Townsville and Cairns to operate permanently at 275kV.

Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen, Mick de Brenni, said this link to the Queensland SuperGrid will improve the reliability of energy supply to North Queenslanders, while unlocking up to 500MW of additional renewable energy capacity.

“It means we can pump more renewables into the Queensland SuperGrid and create more jobs in our publicly owned energy system for workers in North Queensland,” Mr de Brenni said. “This new SuperGrid Link also improves grid reliability for North Queenslanders to better manage extreme weather events such as storms and cyclones.”

Powerlink Chief Executive Paul Simshauser said upgrading the transmission line across more than 350 kilometres required highly specialised work, with works being meticulously scheduled and delivered to ensure electricity supply is continually maintained.

“Delivering a third permanent 275kV circuit into north Queensland requires works at our existing Ross, Woree, Tully and Yabulu South substations,” Mr Simshauser said. “Our crews started working at Ross Substation in September 2021, with works then kicking off across Woree and Tully substations to prepare the sites to house a range of new 275kV equipment.”

“Works at Woree Substation, which has been in service for more than 20 years, include building and commissioning a range of new 275kV plant and associated protection systems.”

Tully Substation’s construction activities included the addition of a new 275kV switchyard directly behind the existing 132kV substation to accommodate new equipment.

This has included the installation of a new transformer – a large piece of equipment that converts high voltage electricity from Powerlink’s transmission network down to a lower voltage suitable for Energy Queensland (Ergon Energy) local distribution network. Works to reconfigure transmission lines connected to the Yabulu South Substation are scheduled for completion in October 2023.

The North Queensland Capacity Upgrade Project is part of Powerlink’s broader commitment to investing $700 million in North Queensland’s transmission network over the next five years. By connecting customers to a world-class energy future, Powerlink aims to create new opportunities and drive economic growth in the region. The project has also fostered collaboration with local businesses and suppliers.

A pathway of opportunities for North Queensland businesses

Powerlink partnered with Zinfra, CPP, UGL and Energy Queensland (Ergon Energy) to upgrade and install new equipment at its substations. Powerlink is committed to supporting

local businesses and source local materials wherever possible for delivering its projects.

More than 40 local businesses located between Cairns and Townsville were involved in delivering the North Queensland Capacity Upgrade Project. Additionally, sub-contractors working on the project have engaged more than ten local suppliers, supporting regional economic growth and development.

The project has made a positive economic impact within the immediate community. Multiple local businesses,  including accommodation providers, local shops and restaurants, are benefiting from the increased activity associated with the project. Like all of its projects, Powerlink has undertaken project works in accordance with rigorous environmental and Cultural Heritage requirements to minimise impacts.

The Townsville to Cairns area boasts some of Queensland’s most highly valued farming areas, and unique flora and fauna, with highly trained and specialised crews engaged to conduct project works.

In addition, the project emphasises the importance of site safety and skill development. Ongoing training and qualifications are supplied to personnel in order to provide them with essential competence in plant operations and operating licences, establishing a culture of continuous learning and improvement. Construction on the coastal network project will continue until around late 2023, weather dependent.

More information on the North Queensland Capacity Upgrade and North Queensland REZ works can be found on Powerlink’s website:

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