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Solar farm fail: Fears region's grids won't cope

SOLAR SURGE: Minister for Energy, Biofuels and Water Supply Mark Bailey speaks at the Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise National Energy Summit.
SOLAR SURGE: Minister for Energy, Biofuels and Water Supply Mark Bailey speaks at the Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise National Energy Summit. Contributed

A SURGE in solar projects across the Darling Downs risks crippling energy supply networks if upgrades are not made to the grid.

Six projects worth nearly $2 billion are planned for the region in coming years, including a 5000 hectare plant at Millmerran billed as the largest solar farm in Australia, and the $200 million Yarranlea project.

These have been lauded as the answer to soaring electricity bills and unreliable supply, but now doubts have been raised over whether the energy grid has the capacity to cope with the increased power load they will provide.

Yarranlea Solar chief executive Nick Canto said major infrastructure upgrades to the existing network were needed to manage the upsurge in renewable power supplies.

State Minister for Energy, Biofuels and Water Supply Mark Bailey said the government had no plans "at this stage" to upgrade the network to shore up renewable energy supplies in the Darling Downs but acknowledged it could form part of the government's future plans.

"It's a good problem to have, isn't it, when you've got so many renewable energy projects happening and infrastructure and jobs that they're actually talking about upgrading the system," he said.

"We're seeing solar power stations happening all over the state.

"We've made a decision to upgrade the transmission line in North Queensland because we've got so many projects happening there.

"We will continue to review our system to make sure that we can facilitate these projects."

Mr Bailey singled out the Sun Metals solar plant in Townsville which will generate 116 megawatts and cover 30% of the plants energy needs.

The Bulli Creek Solar Project at Millmerran will generate 2000MW in what has been described as potentially the largest solar plant in the world.

Yarranlea is estimated to generate 100MW.

Federal Minister for Resources Senator Matthew Canavan said the rush to renewable energy sources put at risk jobs and industry without benefiting the end consumer.

"We shouldn't push renewables up above 40% without a proper plan of knowing how to keep the lights on when renewables are not there," he said.

"That's what they did in South Australia and they put their own state and businesses there at great risk.

"(The Federal Government) are focused on looking at what technology works around the world, what works and doesn't work around Australia, and we can see at the moment that South Australia is doing a great service to our nation.

"They're showing us all what not to do."

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said Mr Canto called on the State Government to fund the upgrades. Mr Canto made no mention as to who was responsible for funding the upgrades.

Topics:  mark bailey matt canavan national energy summit renewables solar energy toowoomba



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