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Green power from Papua New Guinea could light up Queensland

The Queensland government has backed a multi-billion dollar hydro power project in Papua New Guinea (PNG) that would plug directly into Townsville providing huge amounts of green energy to the state’s north.

The state government along with Origin representatives and PNG Energy Developments Ltd (PNG EDL) recently signed a Memorandum of Cooperation to support the development of the Purari Hydro Resource at Wabo in the Gulf Province of PNG.

If successful the Green Grid power project would create thousands of jobs, provide renewable power to Papua New Guinea, create an unprecedented green grid in far north Queensland and feed into Australia’s national electricity market.

Electricity generated using hydro-electric technology emits close to zero carbon emissions meaning the project has the potential to provide a major boost to Australia’s renewal energy targets by 2020.

"This proposal would generate 1,800 MW of renewable baseload electricity travelling via undersea cable to Weipa and could potentially plug directly into Townsville as early as 2020.

To put that amount of power into context, the peak energy consumption of the entire state from all energy sources today is around 8,900 MW. The company undertaking the project is PNG EDL, a 50:50 joint venture between Origin Energy and the PNG Sustainable Development Program Ltd.

This resource is not new or unknown. Significant engineering and environmental studies were undertaken by the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation and Nippon Koei around this resource in the 1970s.The joint venture has updated and extended these efforts and is expecting to complete in 2012 a feasibility study including comprehensive environmental, sociological and engineering studies.

In 2008, at the Cairns Regional Parliament Queensland signed an MOU with PNG to explore areas of co-operation between the two.

The project would provide PNG with a reliable source of power for villages and rural communities and transform the economic development prospects of western Papua New Guinea. But for an energy project of this size to be viable PNG needs a baseload customer. Under this partnership Queensland becomes that baseload customer.

From Townsville the green power could be transmitted west to Mt Isa and the North West Mineral Province using the proposed CopperString power line.

The hydro development would also provide access to baseload electricity capable of supporting the full development of Queensland’s bauxite deposits in Weipa.This overland transmission line would create a green grid opening up access to the almost completely untapped renewable energy potential of far north Queensland.

Access to transmission across far north Queensland would make Queensland’s other renewable energy resources such as wind and solar economically viable by giving them access to the national grid. If successful, Far North Queensland could become Australia’s mineral processing hub for copper and zinc.

Consistent rainfall across a large catchment area, reaching around eight metres a year in the area around the project site, mean the proposed site is well suited for maintaining the flow of the river downstream, which will help to minimise the environmental impact of the project.

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