$1bn world’s largest solar farm for Qld if RET confirmed

Posted on 12 Feb 2015 by Tim Brown
PV solar panels from Lightsource Renewable Energy

It is hoped the federal government may soon confirm Australia's renewable energy target (RET) to ensure investors continue to support plans to build the world's largest solar farm near Toowoomba in Queensland.

The Toowoomba Regional Council has approved a development application by Solar Choice to construct a 13,000-acre solar farm at Bulli Creek, south-west of the city.

It is estimated the site will take eight years to complete and cost approximately AUD$1bn.

A mockup design of the  proposed Solar Choice Bulli Creek solar farm - image courtesy of Solar Choice.
A mockup design of the proposed Solar Choice Bulli Creek solar farm – image courtesy of Solar Choice.

It is expected to deliver up to 2 gigawatts (2,000MW) or enough electricity to power 550,000 homes, nearly four times as much electricity as the World’s Largest Solar Farm which, as of November 2014, was Topaz Solar Farm in California which generates 550MW.

California is also home to the 550MW Desert Sunlight Solar Farm which officially opened this week and was welcomed by California Governor Jerry Brown who has called on his state to increase its renewable-energy use to 50% of the total by 2030, up from 33% by 2020.

Australia’s renewable energy target

Construction of the Australian Bulli Creek solar farm could start as early as 2016 but is being delayed by uncertainty over Australia’s renewable energy target.

Last year the Government ordered a review of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) which was set at 20% and estimated to be 41,000GW. The Government said the estimate was not representative of accurate demand forecasts and that the current estimate actually represented closer to 27%.

After a failed negotiations with the Labor party last year when a target of 26,000GW was proposed, The Guardian has reported this week that the Government has returned to talks with the opposition and a target in the mid 30,000GWs is under discussion.

In an interview with the ABC, Solar Choice managing director Angus Gemmell said certainty of the RET was critical to the success of the solar farm at Bulli Creek.

“Whilst we are certainly well advanced with global investors for the Bulli Creek Solar Farm,” Mr Gemmell said, “they are understandably awaiting regulatory certainty on the renewable energy target.”

Although the new Bulli Creek project is ambitious in its size, Solar Choice has proved its capabilities in solar power infrastructure having installed sites around the country including the 2.3MW Mount Majura Solar Farm in ACT which is moving into construction this year, and the company have also completed large PV projects for BHP Nickel West, ING and McDonalds Australia.