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Darling Downs embraces renewables

Minister for Energy Mark Bailey has labelled the Toowoomba and Surat Basin a diverse economic powerhouse which is rapidly becoming a major part of the State’s renewable energy landscape.

Speaking at the Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise National Energy Summit, Mr Bailey said the region was an important part of Queensland’s energy boom which is bringing more jobs to the regions.

“Energy is undergoing a transformational change in the way it is generated, transported and used and as a government you have to plan for that,” Mr Bailey said.

“We have the youngest most efficient coal-fired power stations in the nation and plenty of gas which will continue to be part of our energy mix for many years to come, but there is a renewable energy boom happening right around the world and you can’t stick your head in the sand and pretend it’s not happening.

“That’s why we commissioned the independent Renewable Energy Expert Panel to provide advice to government on how our 50% by 2030 target can be achieved over the next 13 years in an affordable and secure way.

“Projects such as the Darling Downs Solar Farm and the Oakey Solar Farm are key projects in the renewable energy pipeline bringing strong benefits to regional Queensland, including $2.3 billion of investment and 2,200 construction jobs.

“When the Palaszczuk Government was elected, there was not one large scale renewable energy project commissioned in Queensland.  In just 18 months, we’ve kick-started the renewable energy boom and there are now 17 projects which have either commenced construction or finalised commercial arrangements.

“This includes some 1000 megawatts of projects around the Toowoomba, Darling Downs and Surat Basin region.

“Credit is also due to the great work being done by the mayors in the Western Downs and the Toowoomba regional councils – who have supported and seen the benefits of the renewable energy boom for their region.”

Mr Bailey said the Darling Downs region’s renewable diversity also extended to biofuels through the Dalby ethanol bio refinery.

“The Palaszczuk Government recently announced an incentive package to accelerate a $26 million expansion of the refinery that will generate approximately 50 local jobs and potentially boost demand for Darling Downs sorghum,” Mr Bailey said.

“Queensland has an abundant supply of solar, wind and hydro resources, and an emerging biofuels sector, presenting significant opportunities to boost investment, create new jobs and diversify the economy, particularly in our regions.”

Mr Bailey said the most recent milestone in the region was construction starting on the Oakey Solar Farm – another product of the State’s Solar 150 program.

“Due to the resounding success of the Solar 150 program the Government has committed to attracting additional renewable investment,” he said.

“Companies such as Canadian Solar are major players in the international renewable industry – by further demonstrating our renewable commitment we will bring more renewable energy to our grid and more jobs of the future.”

Canadian Solar’s General Manager Daniel Ruoss said the $48 million, 25 megawatt Oakey project would bring with it 50 construction jobs to the Oakey region.

“Since 2014, Canadian Solar has been investing millions of dollars in Queensland for project developments and the company collaborates closely with local stakeholders to maximise the benefits for the local region and its communities,” Mr Ruoss said.

“The Oakey project follows the beginning of construction of the $29 million, 15 megawatt Longreach project which is employing 30 people during construction.

“We expect both of these projects to be grid connected by early 2018.”

Mr Ruoss said the Oakey project will also have a second stage involving an additional 55 megawatts commencing construction later this year.

“We’ve chosen Queensland for our investment because of its world-class resources, its great infrastructure and a forward looking Government. Queensland is truly the Sunshine State,” Mr Ruoss said.

Further information about Queensland’s support for large-scale solar is available at https://www.business.qld.gov.au/industry/energy/renewable-energy/solar-150

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