Powerlink awards early works contract for CopperString project

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Queensland government-owned network operator Powerlink has signed off on an early works package for engineering and geotechnical work on the estimated $5 billion Copperstring project, a 1,050-kilometre high-voltage transmission line stretching between Mount Isa and Townsville in north Queensland.

The project, acquired by the Queensland government earlier this year, would integrate the state’s isolated northwest into the National Electricity Market 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.

Queensland Energy Minister Mick de Brenni said the Copperstring project will unlock the full power of the north and is an important feature of the state government’s $62 billion Energy and Jobs Plan that calls for an additional 22 GW of new wind and solar projects by 2035.

“Copperstring 2032 will be connected to the Queensland SuperGrid, the nation’s largest energy grid, meaning that wherever energy is generated we can capture it, send it, store it, and use it wherever it is needed,” he said.

“As CopperString 2032 progresses we’re also set to see a number of high-quality renewables resources become available in the Hughenden region, a region that has the potential to become Australia’s largest renewable energy zone.”

Powerlink said the early works package awarded to the UGL and CPB Contractors joint venture (JV) will fast-track development of design standards for the Townsville to Hughenden section of the project, which includes an increased transmission capacity from 330 kV to 500 kV plus associated works.

Powerlink Chief Executive Paul Simshauser said the awarding of the package, which will cover detailed engineering design, field surveys, geotechnical surveys and geotechnical works, is a significant milestone and marked the first step towards the practical delivery of the project.

“This means the project can progress key engineering design, detailed investigation works and approvals so we can move into the construction phase to connect the North West Minerals Province to the national electricity grid,” he said.

“With joint venture partners UGL and CPB Contractors now on board, we will be fast-tracking development of the design standards for the expanded 500 kV transmission line from Townsville to Hughenden as well as associated works to progress the project towards construction commencing in 2024.”

As well as the expanded Townsville to Hughenden transmission line, the project also includes the construction and commissioning of a 330 kV transmission line from Hughenden to Cloncurry, a 220 kV transmission line linking Cloncurry to Mount Isa, and seven new substations.

The Queensland government allocated $1 billion for the project in the recent state budget, with $594 million of that committed to start construction over the coming financial year.

Powerlink said early works have already commenced with the project expected to be completed by 2029.

The $20 million early works package follows a previous early contractor involvement agreement awarded to the UGL and CPB Contractors JV in 2021 which included scoping, design, site investigations, pricing and progress of the design and construct contract.

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