A $60 million, 26 MW North Queensland solar farm is being constructed at Lakeland near Cooktown with inauguration expected before Christmas this year. The project is expected to provide up to 20 jobs when completed and employ 200 workers during the construction phase.
Lyon Infrastructure North Queensland solar farm
The North Queensland solar farm built by Lyon Infrastructure is located along Mulligan Highway in Lakeland, Queensland. The project is on track for a 2015 commissioning, according to Lyon Infrastructure executive director David Green.
Green said that the North Queensland solar farm will become one of the biggest solar photovoltaic projects in Australia and would require 100,000 solar photovoltaic panels covering 30 hectares. It would also include a utility scale 1 MW battery.
The official said that the North Queensland solar farm will connect to the fringe of Australian utility firm Ergon Energy in northern Queensland. It would help improve the stability in the region notorious for regular brownouts, and where most households and businesses have standby diesel generators.
Green added that the North Queensland solar farm will also be able to help in bring power back quickly in the region especially during cyclonic events.
Declining interest in solar investments
The launch of the North Queensland solar farm is a bit of encouraging news to supporters of renewable energy, a sector which has been negatively affected by Premier Tony Abbott’s scepticism on the government’s renewable energy target (RET).
This year, investments in renewable energy for the first half of the year dried up according to a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Investments in large-scale projects like wind farms dipped to $40 million, the lowest since 2001 according to Bloomberg. This was a significant decrease from the $2.69 billion recorded in 2013 which was the second largest recorded investments to the clean energy sector.
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On the contrary, global investments in clean energy soared to $63.6 billion in the second quarter of the year, said Bloomberg. Australia, once a major global player in renewable energy, has been overtaken by other countries like China. The latter is the largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world but has also become the biggest investor in renewable energy, pouring in a record $19.3 billion in the second quarter of 2014.
Still, Lyon Infrastructure believes that renewable energy sector in Australia remains viable. Green said it is important that the country continue to deploy new and renewable sources of energy.
Green said the company is looking for funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency although it has the support of the Cook Shire Council.
Green said the key for solar power projects is the installation of utility scale battery storage, similar to what other countries have been doing. However he lamented that Australia is lagging well behind in this aspect. He said Australia should bring that technology and test it in its environment.
The mayor of Cook Shire, Peter Scott, said the North Queensland solar farm is an exciting one for the shire. He added that the Lakeland Downs Community had been briefed about the influx of workers in their area, as well as around 400 pickers who would be working on banana farms this time of the year.
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