Three solar projects currently being built in rural Queensland highlight the fantastic benefits that renewable energy can bring to regional communities.

Clean Energy Council member Canadian Solar Australia is currently constructing three separate solar projects in the rural Queensland towns of Oakey, Normanton and Longreach. The projects, which range in size from 5 MW to 80 MW, will create more than 200 jobs during construction as well as a number of ongoing maintenance jobs once work is complete.

A key feature of the three solar farms is Canadian Solar’s strong desire to work closely with local communities to ensure that local businesses and residents benefit from the projects.

In Oakey, the company conducted a number of community consultation events with residents, businesses and the local university, which generated positive feedback from community stakeholders and resulted in significant interest from residents and businesses in how they could become involved in the project.

In Longreach, Canadian Solar developed a comprehensive community consultation plan to ensure that all relevant stakeholders were informed and had a chance to give input and ask questions about the project. This multi-staged plan allowed for deeper connections to be fostered with the local community and built community interest and excitement in an area that had been adversely affected by a long period of drought.

In addition to the jobs created by the projects, Canadian Solar has looked to engage with the local community wherever possible by utilising local labour, resources and business services. The company has also supported the communities through initiatives such as its sponsorship of the ‘International Legends of League’ NRL tournament in Oakey.

The projects are also putting a new spin on traditional farming in Australia by creating alternative opportunities for present and future generations on the land. Toowoomba Regional Councillor Carol Taylor praised the Oakey Solar Farm as an opportunity to “inspire young people to continue on the land” by providing new ways to utilise farm land and creating new jobs.

This view is echoed by Ian Speed, the owner of the land where the Oakey Solar Farm will be located, who identified the positive impact and opportunities that solar energy can present for local farmers by securing a stable source of income for land and a more productive use for unproductive soil. “We have essentially been farming the sun since we have been here, just turning it into protein or fibre; now we’re turning it into electricity”, Mr Speed said.

Canadian Solar’s three projects in Queensland highlight the potential for solar energy to provide security for communities. Through close partnerships with local residents, businesses and stakeholders, solar farms can bring fresh opportunities and growth to regional areas and foster a brighter future.

More on the projects

The Oakey Solar Farm is an 80 MW two-stage project being built on a local family farm outside of Oakey, Queensland. Stage 1 of the project, a 25 MW solar farm that is currently under construction, received $2.2 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and will include about 90,000 individual solar panels that will generate enough electricity to power 24,000 homes.

The Normanton Solar Farm is being built on an ex-grazing property in Normanton, Queensland in conjunction with Scouller Energy. The 5 MW solar farm is a fringe-of-grid solar plant that is designed to ensure more reliable and affordable energy for the Normanton area while demonstrating how such a project can be of benefit to other rural communities.

The Longreach Solar Farm is a 15 MW solar project being built just outside of Longreach, Queensland. The project will use more than 54,000 solar panels to generate 39.1 GWh of electricity per year, which is enough to power 5,000 homes.