Hughenden is experiencing an economic boom thanks to the influx of more than 100 workers tasked with constructing the Kennedy Energy Park, a world-first hybrid power project.
Worker numbers are likely to peak in the next few weeks, with some locals estimating figures around the 150 mark.
Demand for accommodation, meals and other retail goods has been so strong, the small western town’s two pubs have been forced to share kitchens to keep up with the nightly meal demand.
Publican Robert Downie said the Royal Hotel was serving around 100 meals a night, compared to the 30 it would usually be doing each evening at this time of year.
After touring the project last week, KAP state leader and Member for Traeger Robbie Katter said it was great to hear the local community had started benefitting from the project.
“There are so many potential benefits to come out of the Kennedy Energy Park – I am a big supporter of it,” he said.
“Not only will it help to fortify the Hughenden area’s economic strength, but the power it outputs to the grid will help to drive down energy costs.
“Business owners in rural and regional communities are really being gouged by the power companies at the moment, so I hope this will have an effect sooner rather than later.”
Mr Katter said it was important Hughenden locals were feeling the positive effects of the increasing worker numbers.
“From the pubs to the café to the caravan park, I am sure this influx in business – during what is otherwise a quiet time of the year – has been more than welcome,” he said.
Hughenden Chamber of Commerce president Pete Fornasier said every dollar spent in town was positive.
“Having this many people in town for this length of time is good for everyone,” he said.
“Some of our businesses are doing extremely well out of it and every dollar being spent is good for town.
“The drought is still on out here and we can’t forget that, but I think we hit the bottom a few years ago and it is really picking up now.”
Kennedy Energy Park is owned by Windlab and Eurus Energy Holding Corporation.
It is located on sparsely timbered farm land approximately 17km southeast of Hughenden and 290km southwest of Townsville.
Its first stage is underway and is due to be producing energy by the end of the year and will make Hughenden Australia’s leading renewable energy location.
This will be followed by the construction of “Big Kennedy” in the second phase.
Eventually the project will provide up to 1200MW of energy – enough to supply electricity to the equivalent of 400 homes.