The potential for western Queensland to be one of Australia’s largest renewable energy sites was showcased at Longreach on Tuesday when Canadian Solar celebrated the opening of its $29 million solar farm at Camden Park.
The global solar leader, which is also responsible for the 80 megawatt Oakey solar farm under construction, has hailed the 17MW Longreach farm as one of its flagship projects, not only in Australia but in its whole portfolio.
That was echoed by Longreach Regional councillor, Tony Martin, who hoped it would become the catalyst for more renewable energy projects in the region, to help the economic growth and sustainability of communities in the west.
“We are so well placed as a region, geographically, for renewable energy projects like this,” he said.
“I’d like to think there’ll be more. We’ve seen interest from other companies and other departments – it’s a little too early to talk about them at the moment but there is definite interest.
“You heard the Premier a few weeks back in Winton announce that there’s the possibility of our region being one of Australia’s largest renewable energy sites.
“There’s some real excitement around the topic and let’s hope they come to fruition.”
As well as congratulating Canadian Solar on delivering on time, saying he knew how difficult projects of that stature could be, Cr Martin also congratulated the Walker family at Camden Park Station on being able to diversify their cattle and sheep operation.
“That in itself is a sign of the times,” he said. “As we know, we’re in a lengthy drought and property owners have to be innovative in changing how they use their land.”
Representing state Energy Minister, Anthony Lynham, at the inauguration, Chris Whiting described the event as a day when Queensland had taken another step in its transition from Sunshine State to Solar State.
The Camden Park project is one of four large-scale solar farms begun under the Palaszczuk government’s Solar150 program that is delivering power into the national energy market.
The Longreach solar farm is being progressively commissioned and is operating at 50 per cent capacity, exporting 7MW of power into the Ergon Energy grid.
When fully operational it is expected to power around 5000 homes.
Mr Whiting, who was last in Longreach in April as the chair of the Agriculture committee taking public hearings into the government’s vegetation management amendment Bill, said the Solar150 program provided long-term revenue certainty, giving proponents, including Canadian Solar, a 20-year revenue guarantee.
The Longreach solar farm will be followed by an initial 25Mt stage of Canadian Solar’s 80MW Oakey solar farm, which is due to be running and grid-connected by September.
“There’s now seven operational large-scale solar farms in Queensland,” Mr Whiting said.
“These are grid-connected, giving 221MW of renewable energy.
“There are 23 large-scale committed renewable projects across the state and that will be an additional 2100MW going into the national electricity grid.
“There are 56 large-scale solar projects currently in the approvals or construction process in Queensland.”
Canadian Solar’s project manager, energy group, Josh Currah, said the Longreach project had been successfully energised earlier in the year and had generated its first power.
“The 17MW Canadian Solar development enjoyed financial backing from MUFG and CEFC, alongside support from both ARENA and the Queensland government’s Solar150 program, and construction contractor, RCR O’Donnell Griffin,” he said. “The over-arching support of the Longreach community and greater region also contributed to a successful construction process.”