Solar boom 'bringing hundreds of jobs' to Queensland's Darling Downs

21 August 2018 Celotti Workforce

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A renewable energy boom across Queensland's Darling Downs is reinvigorating the region's economy, which suffered a sharp downturn when coal seam gas development slowed earlier than expected.

One council alone has approved one wind and 11 solar projects worth $6 billion.

"We've got $1.2 billion of that under construction now, and that's the exciting thing, this isn't just about approvals, this is about action to deliver renewable energies to this region," Western Downs Regional Council mayor Paul McVeigh said.

"And we know there are another three [solar farms] in the pipeline."

When the coal seam gas industry scaled back, hundreds of jobs were lost, rental vacancies soared, and businesses failed.

But Mayor McVeigh says the signs of economic recovery are becoming increasingly visible.

"We have growth in all our towns, and one of the real estate agents in Dalby has only got two houses left to rent," he said.

The area's first big project — the $200 million Dalby Solar Farm, owned by Australian energy infrastructure company APA — is nearing completion.

It will generate enough electricity to power 30,000 homes.

When it is finished, the workforce of over 100 will move onto a bigger APA project, with 800,000 solar panels.

"We're looking at the Beelbee solar farm which is just nearby, and if we get all the approvals we want for that and proceed, that will be around $200 to 300 million as well," APA's Sam Pierce said.

Mr Pierce says the Darling Downs region has become a renewable energy investment hotspot.

"There are plenty of places in Australia which have good solar resources, there are plenty of places which have good transmission lines as well, and there are lots of places which have good support from the local community," he said.

"Darling Downs has got all three of those, so that's three big ticks in its favour."

This article was originally written for ABC News and can be read here