Queensland: Renewables replace coal seam gas in Darling Downs solar boom

Solar boom in Darling Downs replaces declining coal seam gas.

Queensland’s Darling Downs is enjoying a solar boom as clean energy helps the region’s economy bounce back from a downturn in the coal seam gas industry.

According to Western Downs Regional Mayor Paul McVeigh, 11 solar projects worth $6 billion have approval. With facilities worth $1.2 billion under construction, the Darling Downs is now a renewable energy investment hot spot.

As reported by the ABC, renewable jobs are now starting to replace hundred of jobs lost when the coal seam gas sector scaled back.

Darling Downs ticks all boxes for solar location

The Darling Downs has the three most important attributes for productive solar power, McVeigh claims. These are plenty of sunshine, good transmission lines and also local community support.

Darling Downs enjoying solar boom says Mayor of Western Downs Regional Council, Paul McVeigh.
Solar boom filling gap left by coal seam gas slump says Western Downs Regional Mayor Paul McVeigh. Image: Western Downs Regional Council

The area’s first big project is nearing completion. The $200 million Dalby Solar Farm will generate enough electricity to power 30,000 homes.

Its 100-strong workforce will then move on to a larger project with 800,000 solar panels. The nearby Beelbee Solar Farm is worth between $200 and $300 million.

Toowoomba plays its part in region’s solar boom

Toowoomba Council has approved a billion-dollar project at Bulli Creek which is flagged as the largest solar farm in the world.

Chinese company Risen Energy owns the 264 MW project. It’s part of the rapid economic growth which has “stunned” Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio.

In Warwick, the University of Queensland’s 154,000 MW solar farm will help cover its $22 million annual electricity bill. UQ will then become the first university in the world to offset 100 per cent of its electricity use.

Not everyone happy with solar installations

However, some community members are opposing the Warwick solar farm. This is because the solar installation is sited in a valley overlooked by houses.

Ultimately, Southern Downs Regional Council Mayor Tracy Dobie cast the project’s deciding vote. The region is at an economic turning point and must move forward, she says.

According to Queensland Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lyneham, local governments can make decisions as they see fit. He noted that Councils in Southern Queensland were generally more accepting of solar farms than those in Northern Queensland.

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