High-purity silicon from Townsville to power the world

A global energy infrastructure investor plans to use local silicon for a green energy supply chain founded at a high-tech manufacturing hub in Townsville.

“This means thousands of long-term sustainable manufacturing jobs for Townsville as well as jobs in local supply chains supporting green refining at Lansdown,” Mayor Jenny Hill said on Tuesday.

Specialist renewable energy investor Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners has been granted a major parcel of land at the Lansdown Eco-Industrial Precinct in northern Queensland.

The planned processing plant will be powered by a solar farm and battery storage project that Quinbrook proposes to build on land adjacent to the precinct.

Australia has no polysilicon or battery manufacturing capability as China has a longstanding stranglehold over factory-ready supplies of key materials.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the proposed plant would be one of the most advanced manufacturing facilities in the world.

“The components made right here in Townsville can potentially make their way into solar modules sold not only here in Australia but also in Asia, America and Europe,” he said.

The Quinbrook development will be the first to use renewable energy to produce silica, which is more efficient than other minerals at converting light into electricity.

The project will source silica quartz from around the Townsville region to make polysilicon wafers for use in solar panels as well as battery technology.

Quinbrook has been allocated a 200-hectare site through a council-run competitive tender for the development that will set up a consistent supply of a critical mineral used in renewable infrastructure.

The developer is partnering with Solquartz, which is developing a processing plant at Lansdown that will be integrated into Quinbrook’s plans.

Quinbrook has already received expressions of interest from United States-based buyers for green polysilicon produced in Australia.

Senior director Brian Restall said Lansdown was close to the source of some of the best silica quartz resources in the world.

“Close proximity to the port and multiple transport corridors make it a very compelling location for energy-intensive, export-driven ‘green’ manufacturing,” he said.

Components manufactured in Townsville will be exported to leading manufacturers and made into finished solar modules and batteries.

“Our aim is that Quinbrook will ultimately purchase that equipment for our global power generation projects with total confidence in the supply chain that produced them,” Mr Restall said.

Several international and local institutional investors are keen to be involved in the project.


Marion Rae
(Australian Associated Press)


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