Japanese coal miner Sojitz and its oil company partner Eneos are to build a 204MW solar farm in the Western Downs region of Queensland in a first step to pursue green hydrogen opportunities in Australia.
The Queensland government announced the investment on Thursday, on the same day it revealed it would create a $2 billion renewables and hydrogen fund to support new projects and jobs, and its target of 50 per cent renewables by 2030.
The solar farm will be built at Edenvale, along the Condamine to Kogan Road, about 20 kms south of Cinchilla, and in an area with a number of other solar projects already operating or under construction. See RenewEconomy’s new Large Scale Solar Farm Map of Australia.
“This is a show of international confidence in the strength of our economic recovery plan and in Queensland’s renewable energy future,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said in a statement.
Sojitz is one of Japan’s major trading companies and operates three coal mines in Queensland, including the nearby Gregory Crinium coking coal mine, which will purchase some of the new solar farm’s output.
Eneos is Japan’s largest oil company but also has an interest in renewables and hydrogen, and in 2018 successfully exported green hydrogen from the Queensland University of Technology’s Redlands Research Facility, east of Brisbane, to Japan. It was the first export of its kind.
Eneos said it was its first solar investment in Australia and was being made principally with an eye to establishing a CO2-free hydrogen supply chain in Australia. It is looking to both green hydrogen and ammonia products and plans to spend more than $1.5 billion on such investments over the next few years.
The Edenvale solar farm will sell 70 per cent of its output to the Mojo electricity retailer, while some of the remaining 30 per cent will be supplied to Gregory Crinum mine.
Construction starts this month, with completion expected in early 2023. Gransolar has the contract to build the project, its seventh solar farm contract in Australia.
It said around 450 employees will be involved during construction and subsequently, with operation and maintenance. It said a group of 16 indigenous workers will be trained to carry out the operations and maintenance work.