A new era in solar power generation in Australia has been hailed with last week’s announcement from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency of upfront capital funding support for 12 large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) plants, tripling the amount of energy produced from big solar in Australia.
Half of the projects will be built in Queensland and will provide 300 megawatts of renewable energy generation capacity as well as boost investment by $500 million and create more than 500 direct jobs and hundreds more indirect jobs in regional Queensland.
Although the Longreach farm is the baby of the projects, its promoter, Longreach grazier James Walker says it will mean a world of difference to the economy in the region.
One commodity that has been in abundance during the last three drought-stricken years has been the sun and it was what James thought could make a difference to an ailing economy.
“I started looking into solar four years ago but the timing wasn’t right,” he said. “With the local economy failing I decided to pick it up again, with Canadian Solar. They are very excited about western Queensland’s radiance.”
James’ excitement stems from the prospect of the local jobs the project is set to generate – $4 million worth, he believes.
“Usually with large projects, labour gets brought in but we identified from the outset that the core will be local. It’s a point of difference for Canadian Solar.”
Canadian Solar will receive $1.3m from ARENA for the $28.7m project, which will see 50,000 panels erected on a 50 acre plot of land leased from the Walker family
Queensland Energy Minister Mark Bailey said the farm at Longreach, along with the Whitsunday, Kidston and Oakey projects, had also been successful in securing state government support through long-term revenue contracts.
As well as hoping to use solar energy to power his Camden Park property, James is in talks with the company regarding opportunities for himself and locals to invest in the project, and is now looking ahead to what reliable solar power in the region could bring.
“Now we’ve got solar, the question is, what else can we do,” he asked. “It makes us more reliable now.”