WHIRLWIND OF ACTIVITY: The ACCIONA wind farm near Warwick will be similar to its sister site in Victoria, pictured here.
WHIRLWIND OF ACTIVITY: The ACCIONA wind farm near Warwick will be similar to its sister site in Victoria, pictured here.

Billion-dollar wind farm to boost Southern Downs

THE Southern and Western Downs regions are set to become national hubs for renewable energy after plans were approved to construct a $1.96 billion wind farm near Karara.

The MacIntyre Wind Farm Precinct aims to turn sheep grazing land into a hive of activity, with up to 180 turbines producing energy for around 700,000 homes across the state.

The farm, one of the largest onshore wind farms in the world, will be located just 50km west of Warwick and create over 200 jobs during the construction phase, which is expected to begin mid-next year.

The news comes as the University of Queensland announced the completion of the 154-hectare Warwick Solar Farm in June, which will feed enough electricity into the Queensland grid to completely off-set use at the St Lucia campus.

Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi said the move towards renewables, such as solar and wind, could be a good way for the region to capitalise on large swathes of unused farming land.

"There's plenty of land out there that doesn't have high production value that could be used for those types of activities, and I think the Southern Downs is well placed for it," Cr Pennisi said.

"I wouldn't like to see a bunch of wind turbines anywhere they could affect the lifestyle of residents, but if they're in the right location I see no reason why we can't (exist) simultaneously."

 

A rendering of what the McIntyre Wind Farm will look like, 50km west of Warwick.
A rendering of what the McIntyre Wind Farm will look like, 50km west of Warwick.

The Mayor predicts the construction phase could bring new people into town, looking for accommodation, activities and food.

"It will have a huge impact on the region," he said.

"It's great for the economy."

The wind farm is owned by Spanish company ACCIONA in partnership with the Queensland Government and developers maintain the construction will in no way impede on local sheep graziers, who are expected to continue using the land around the turbines.

Sheep grazier Bruce McLeish said he supported the move to renewable energy, as it was possible for the industry to thrive alongside agriculture.

 

 

A rendering of what the McIntyre Wind Farm power station, around which sheep will continue to graze.
A rendering of what the McIntyre Wind Farm power station, around which sheep will continue to graze.

"The footprint is minimal and the returns are good," Mr McLeish said.

"It means we'll get a big hit of people coming in for a short period while they build it, and get the systems in place, and I think that's brilliant, it's another facet to get revenue out of our country.

"But long-term we've got to be responsible for our land, and keep small livestock production going strongly."

Keeping the farming land viable for agriculture remained vital for the Southern Downs, even as the 285-metre high turbines began to dot the landscape, Mr McLeish said.

"We're trying to make that land productive," he said.

"We've got investments, families and communities, so we need to be looking short-term, medium-term and long-term by doing things like responsible pest management."