The online world has become electrified with recent news that Morocco has flicked the switch on a solar farm, which at full capacity can produce up to 580 MW of power. Little has been said however about the ongoing plan to develop a 2GW (2000MW) solar park right here in the heart of Queensland.
In February, the King of Morocco pushed a button that ignited the generation of 180MW of renewable electricity which will help to provide power to over 1 million people. Yet, the Bulli Creek development, situated practically in our own backyard, is looking to be up to 4 times larger. With a population of just over 4.5 million, could this spell the end for traditional energy providers in Queensland. While the project is only in a developmental stage, things have been progressing smoothly. In early 2015, the Toowoomba Regional Council gave the go ahead and issued the RPS group and Solar Choice with initial planning approval. The site will be around 13,000 acres in size, allowing for an installation of enough solar to produce 2GW of power, the figure originally hoped for. Approval however came with certain conditions. Construction will need to begin within 4 years of approval, meaning we should start seeing the preliminary ground work go in this year. However, the site most likely won’t be fully operational for the next 8 years. Interestingly, despite the magnitude of the development as well as the cost, it has only been granted permission to operate for the next 35 years with no mention of an extension. On the up side though, the Bulli Creek Solar Park has also been granted permission to gradually increase its size, after the original development is complete. Meaning that the site will be built out in 100-500MW stages on top of the initial 2GW once each new stage is approved.
Despite the initial 2GW site approval, engineers have concluded that the site, in ideal conditions, could actually operate at over 2GW. Furthermore, unlike most large scale rural developments, RPS and Solar Choice have received no backlash from the local communities surrounding the area.
Interestingly enough, despite the smooth sailing of this operation in particular, support from local residents and Australia's ideal climate, there are only a few operational large scale solar farms. Given the fact that Australia possesses one of the most modern interconnected grids in the world and has a remarkably low population density, we should be the ideal candidate for further investment, yet it doesn’t seem to be the case. Investment into Australian large scale renewable energy projects has slowed to a trickle since the Government decided to scrap its previous, more ambitious clean energy targets. So despite the investability of solar, without the aid and support of the government, funding is going elsewhere. It seems that while those in the business world can see that, “large-scale solar is on the right side of history,” the government is failing to get with the times. And, while Gemmell of RenewEconomy stated, “it’s not a matter of if these projects are built, but when,” unless the Government gets serious about clean energy targets, we could be waiting a little longer before developments like Bulli Creek become the norm.