Author: Chris Lees
A “USE it or lose it” policy could help drive Australia’s largest solar energy farm to the Gladstone region.
Five “highly reputable companies” are in the running to develop a renewable energy hub at Aldoga, at the base of Mt Larcom.
Member for Gladstone, Glenn Butcher said Aldoga could become Australia’s largest solar farm with five large companies moving into the the proposal’s second stage.
The area at Aldoga has been earmarked as a renewable hub and appears most likely to become a solar farm.
“From where it sits and with the location of the huge substation down the road it certainly bodes well for a solar farm,” Mr Butcher said.
“We know that there is quite a bit of activity and work that goes on in the construction phase.”
Natural Resources and Mines Minister Anthony Lynham said the five companies had been shortlisted from 16 applicants and invited to submit a more detailed proposal.
He said a ‘use it or lose it’ provision included in the lease agreement is to ensure no land banking can occur, which could prevent the development of such a large site with good access to a high-voltage network for renewable energy generation.
“In the absence of the second stage being finalised, specific details cannot be provided on project delivery dates but I am advised that construction design and engineering should begin in 2018,” Dr Lynham said.
Mr Butcher conceded there were not many jobs involved in running the solar farm once it had been built.
“But there could be 12 to 18 months of construction and civil work … generated out of this massive project,” he said.
“A lot of these solar projects are being financed really quickly and I see this as no different.”
A large number of solar and renewable energy projects were announced in central and north Queensland this year.
Mr Butcher said there could be more coming Gladstone’s way and the renewable and bio-energy industry could become huge in this region.
“This is just the first kick-off, I believe, on diversifying Gladstone and I’m very excited about the prospect,” he said.
“Having the State Development Area the size that it is, and having Australia’s best and most accessible port, Gladstone is untapped.”
He was coy about other possibilities but said “there were a few kicking around” and the Aldoga project could be the catalyst to bring similar projects to the region.
“It’s massive the amount of overseas companies that want to invest knowing that the government is on board.”
CQUniversity Gladstone associate vice chancellor Owen Nevin said Gladstone was well-placed to deliver a range of sustainable and carbon-lean energy generation solutions on an industrial scale.
“This project is just the beginning of opportunity in this arena and we at CQU are excited to support the training and research needs of community and industry as they embrace this development,” he said.
Gladstone Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Carl Carter said green shoots were starting to appear.
“We spoke to a solar proponent that’s been shortlisted and their pitch to us was it’s in the hundreds (of jobs) in construction, then in the dozens for maintenance,” he said.
The successful developer will be announced late this year.