Australia's Largest Solar Farm to be Built in Qld

Posted 26th February 2015 by Stephanie Stefanovic

Queensland is to become the home of Australia's largest solar farm, but will the RET get in the way of investment? Queensland will become the setting for Australia's largest solar farm, to be built south-west of Toowoomba. The Toowoomba Regional Council has approved the construction of a 5,000 hectare site at Bulli Creek, which will be built in stages over eight years, commencing in 2016.

Once complete, the farm will have the ability to produce 2,000 megawatts of power, which is more than any coal-fired power station in Queensland. According to developer Solar Choice, this is enough to power 550,000 homes in Queensland and New South Wales.

The project has generated strong interest from international investors, however there are concerns that development will be hindered by the uncertainty surrounding the Renewable Energy Target (RET). Under the RET, 20% of electricity is to come from renewable resources by 2020. However, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has expressed his wish to reduce this target by more than one-third.

“That has placed a lot of doubt for the industry because it's hard for investment to flow or for the retailers to sign power purchase agreements when they don't know where the goalpoasts are. For investment to flow, certainty is required,” said Angus Gemmell, managing director of Solar Choice.

According to Gemmell, the project has received advanced interest from investors in the US and Europe. “They are satisfied that there are no red flags on the project, but they are awaiting for certainty on the RET. It would be a setback if there's no certainty soon or if the target is diminished,” he said.

As it stands, the RET has been under review by the Federal Government for 12 months. Rumours have circulated that the Abbott government are willing to raise their ideal target from 26-27,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh) to 30,000 GWh, however this still falls far short of the original target of 40,000 Gwh.

Regardless, the construction of Australia's largest solar farm will go ahead and only time will tell as to how much the Australian government will influence its success.

Source: 2015, 'Unhappy Anniversary! A Year of RET Wrangling', Energy Matters, 18 February, viewed 20 February 2015.

Berry, P 2015, 'Qld Solar Farm Dependent on Energy Target', News Ltd., 14 February, viewed 20 February 2015.

Zonca, C and McConchie, R 2015, 'Approval for Australia's Largest Solar Farm to be Built in Queensland', ABC, 13 February, viewed 20 February 2015.

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