Three recent renewable energy projects worth a combined $475 million signal a major shift in the Tropical North's economy.
Nearly half a billion dollars worth of renewable energy projects will be built in the Tropical North over the next few years in what is fast becoming a heavyweight player in the region's economy.
MSF Sugar today announced it will build a $75 million 'green' power station at its mill near Mareeba follows progress on the Mt Emerald wind farm and Lakeland solar farm project.
The MSF power project will create up to 80 jobs during construction, with an estimated $40 million to be spent on locally sourced labour and materials.
Construction should commence in May 2017 with completion in mid-2018.
The new power station will use bagasse - a 100 per cent renewable sugar cane fibre - to produce 24 megawatts of electricity.
That's enough to power every house in the Tableland region.
MSF Sugar CEO Mike Barry said the Tablelands mill project was just the first of what he hoped were other power projects at the company's mills, including at Mulgrave near Gordonvale, South Johnstone near Innisfail and at Maryborough.
"The go-ahead for the remaining three green power stations will depend on the success of the Tableland project as well as stability in the relevant legislation," Mr Barry said.
"If all four green power stations are completed it will equate to approximately 100 megawatts of renewable power generation capacity and a capital spend of around $500 million”.
“Building this renewable power station is the next step in our long term vision to transition our industry towards producing a range of higher value products, moving away from mills that produce solely raw sugar.”
The controversial Mt Emerald wind farm appears to be moving ahead as well following years of delays, approval processes and community backlash.
Thai-owned energy giant Ratch Australia recently bought out its partner on the Mt Emerald project Port Bajool, taking 100 per cent control of the project.
The wind farm will include up to 53 turbines generating enough electricity to power 75,000 homes each year. Construction is slated to start this year and be completed within two years.
The second big project is the $42.5 million Lakeland Solar and Storage project off the Mulligan Highway.
Funded in partnership with the Federal Government, the huge solar farm is promising to be a world-leader in energy generation, storage and distribution, using the latest technology and 41,440 solar panels to power the equivalent of 3000 homes day and night.