Gulf Savannah Country

25 September 2013 — A greater investment in renewable energy could facilitate a boom for Australia’s Gulf region, says the chief executive officer of Cairns-based development agency Gulf Savannah Development.

Rob Macalister, a keynote speaker at All-Energy Australia 2013 in Melbourne on 9 and 10 October, said he was optimistic about the future in the area, which covers nearly 200,000 kilometres, from Queensland’s Atherton Tablelands through to the Northern Territory border.

Gulf Savannah Development represents the interests of five local governments and key industry stakeholders with the objective to increase the uptake of renewable energy, reduce the community and industry’s dependence upon fossil fuels and facilitate more investment.

Rob Macalister

Mr Macalister said the transport kilometres covered annually were far more than those associated with city dwellers in terms of trucking in diesel, moving produce and even going back and forth to boarding school.

He said the Gulf region had a number of world class renewable energy sources with five new projects at various stages of development – three solar, one wind and one biomass.

They are:

  • The Doomadgee Solar Farm – with the first stage just completed. More than 1000 solar panels with a capacity of 264 kilowatts have been installed, resulting in a saving of 115,000 litres of diesel fuel each year. There are plans for future expansion of the farm.
  •  The five megawatt Normanton Solar Farm, in which investors are looking to supplement local supply off the grid. Investors are in the throes of finalising a power purchase agreement.
  •  The 80MW Forsythe Wind Farm, which will feed into the national grid, with a number of other wind projects being investigated.
  •  An integrated food and energy project known as the Gilbert River Biomass Plant, which is on the books but still at an early stage. The intention is for some of the food it would produce, like sugar cane tops, to be burnt to produce energy.
  • The proposed solar farm for Gregory township, which is likely to be of a similar size to Doomadgee Solar Farm.

Mr Macalister said many remote Gulf communities were not connected to the grid with as much as 50 per cent of the region’s population having to find its own energy sources.