CuString chairman John O’Brien announced on Wednesday the company would be ready to “pull the trigger” on the $1.5 billion high-voltage transmission line set to run between Mt Isa and Townsville in north Queensland (QLD) in October, pending final government approvals.
O’Brien told a Regional Reference Group meeting in Townsville the company was looking to finalise funding arrangements with the federal and state governments and complete a study into the project’s potential to support the development of a “clean industrial ecosystem” across the Mt Isa to Townsville corridor and the North West Minerals Province.
“With the support of the Queensland and Australian governments, who are critical to orchestrate the growth of Northern Queensland’s clean industrial economy, we will be ready to pull the trigger on our open access, game-changing infrastructure and commence construction before the end of the year,” he said.
The project, which received an $11 million boost from the federal government recently and has secured more than $14.8 million from the state government, is being hailed as the nation’s largest geographical expansion of the NEM.
It would integrate Queensland’s isolated northwest power supply into the NEM and pave the way for the development of renewable energy projects, including large-scale wind and solar, in the region while also opening up access to large deposits of minerals seen as key to the energy transition.
“CopperString will extend the national transmission grid through an open access 1,100km power network which will not only create greater energy security, it will power the growth of new opportunities for mining, industrial and manufacturing enterprises as well as support clean energy projects,” O’Brien said.
Sydney-based Vast Solar is among those who have already identified QLD’s northwest for investment with plans to develop a $600 million hybrid power plant in Mount Isa.
The project will combine solar PV, a large-scale battery and gas engines with a 50 MW solar thermal facility and help the Queensland government build out its Northern Renewable Energy Zone (REZ).
With the CopperString 2.0 project due for completion in 2024, CuString said it is looking to complete negotiations with the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) on its financing offer for the project and finalise relevant environmental approvals.
O’Brien said the Townsville-based company is also seeking to finalise the remaining items under the Implementation Agreement with the state government which has identified the project as part of its strategy to establish Queensland as a renewable and hydrogen superpower.
“The premier made it clear that developing the half a trillion dollars of critical minerals in the North West was the key to that ambition,” O’Brien said.
“The premier is expecting CopperString to power that ambition, and we can deliver.
“The CopperString corridor between Townsville and Mount Isa cuts through the heart of the best wind and solar resources in Queensland to fuel new renewable energy projects that will power the development of the minerals and electrify their processing in North Queensland.
“Greener, cleaner power harnessed by CopperString will also serve the creation of a world-leading hydrogen export hub in Townsville to lead the state’s decarbonisation.”
O’Brien said he expects announcements regarding procurement opportunities will be made in the coming weeks.
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