Solar Backpackers – Solar jobs not going to locals?

The dozens of solar farms in various stages of construction or approval in Queensland are being flooded with ‘solar backpackers’ – with local staff being eschewed due to the perception of being too difficult to manage. This has led to a situation where ‘solar backpackers’ are being employed instead of local staff as it’s easier for the companies. 

Solar Backpackers and Solar Jobs

According to the ABC, in the last fortnight Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and the Electrical Safety Office conducted inspections across many of Queensland’s regional solar farms. 30 Notices were issued to various companies – this includes 23 breaches of the Work Health and Safety Act and seven breaches of the Electrical Safety Act.

Industrial Minister Grace Grace discussed the issues and advised that a new Code of Practice will be released by the end of the year:

“With the construction of solar and wind farms expanding throughout Queensland, we must ensure electrical safety is paramount,” she said.

“While there is a robust system in place to ensure the highest levels of safety, we are far from complacent and we want to ensure world’s best practice in this area.

“Following the completion of the solar code, a similar process will be undertaken to develop a separate code of practice for wind farms,” she said.

The Australian Border Force have also become involved, but haven’t confirmed any instances of ‘illegal workers’ or ‘worker exploitation’:

“The Australian Government is committed to ensuring that Australian workers have priority and that foreign workers are a supplement to, and not a substitute for, Australians,” an ABF spokesperson said.

“The Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visa allows ‘backpackers’ to stay and holiday in Australia for up to 12 months, work in Australia for up to six months with each employer, study for up to four months and leave and re-enter Australia any number of times while the visa is valid.

“WHM visa holders can undertake any kind of work with any employer during their stay in Australia as long as they do not work more than six months with that employer.”

List of Solar Farms in Queensland (Information from abc.net.au)

Company Solar Farm Area Size Owner Solar Jobs Created
Biosar Energy Childers Bundaberg 120MW Elliott 200
Biosar Energy Susan River Fraser Coast 100MW Elliott 300
Biosar Energy Oakey Solar Farm Stage 2 Toowoomba 70MW Canadian Solar 200
Downer Group Ross River Solar Farm Townville 148MW Palisade Unknown
Downer Group Clare Solar Farm Burdekin 100 MW FRV Unknown
Downer Group Sunshine coast Solar Farm Sunshine Coast 15MW Sunshine Coast City Council Unknown
Acciona Lilyvale Solar Farm Central Highlands 100MW Fotowatio Renewable Ventures Unknown
CIMIC Group & UGL Limited Collinsville Solar Project Whitsunday 42.5MW Ratch Australia 120 at peak
RCR Tomlinson Darling Downs Solar Farm Western Downs 110MW APA Group 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Daydream Solar Farm Whitsunday 180MW Edify Energy 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Hayman Solar Farm Whitsunday 60MW Edify Energy 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Longreach Solar Farm Longreach 15MW Canadian Solar 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Oakey Solar Farm Stage 1 Toowoomba 25MW Canadian Solar 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Sun Metals Solar Farm Stage 1 Townsville 124MW Sun metals Corp 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Emerald Solar Park Central Highlands 72MW Renewable Energy Systems 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Haughton Burdekin 500MW Pacific Hydro 3,000 across eight projects
Bouygues Construction Australia Hamilton Solar Farm Whitsunday 69MW Edify Energy 325
Tranex Whitsunday Solar Farm Whitsunday 69MW Edify Energy Approx. 60
Beon Energy Hughenden Solar Farm Flinders 20MW BayWa r.e 100
Windlab and Erus Energy Kennedy Energy Park Flinders 60MW Windlab Approx. 130 to 140
Yarranlea Yarranlea Solar Farm Toowoomba 121MW Risen Energy 200 proposed positions
Adani Rugby Run Solar Farm Stage 1 Isaac Region 65MW Adani Renewables 150 proposed jobs
 

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RCR Tomlinson Solar Farm Writedowns

Australian solar contracting company RCR Tomlinson has taken a $57m write down on the Daydream solar farm and the Hayman solar farm, which are owned by Edify Energy and to be installed in North Queensland.

RCR Tomlinson Solar Farm Writedown

We reported earlieir this year on the Hayman and Daydream solar farms and how First Solar will be handling the installation for Edify – at that time everything looked rosy but it appears that a couple of major factors have led to cost and time delays. Edify have cited “external” delays, bad weather, and local issues like poor ground quality.  Also being blamed are the increasingly stricter requirements being imposed by the Australian Energy Market Operator which are affecting solar farms Australia-wide. 

RCR Tomlinison Daydream solar farm in Collinsville, Queensland.
RCR Tomlinson -Daydream solar farm in Collinsville, Queensland. (source: thewest.com.au)

As of last year, RCR have over half a Gigawatt of large-scale solar projects in their order book and over a Gigawatt currently being developed or progressed under early contractor involvement processes, according RCR Managing Director & CEO, Dr Paul Dalgleish (who has since left RCR). As a result of the writedown RCR are now attempting to raise $100m from investors and have had to offer a significant discount on RCR shares on a one-for-1.65 basis at $1 each. This represents a ~65% discount on the stock’s last trade price ($2.80).

According to RenewEconomy, Tomlinson has written down $57 million on the $315 million contract values for both the 150MW Daydream and the 50MW Hayman solar farms owned by Edify Energy. They’re both located in North Queensland and both nearing completion.

A statement to shareholders noted that: 

“These project-specific issues required the Company to continuously revise its execution methodologies to mitigate delays, leading to increases in subcontractor costs (both people and plant) and logistics cost overruns.

“As a result of these cost overruns that arose over the life of the Project, RCR has realised cumulative write- downs of $57 million from the tendered margin on the Project.”

Some bad news for solar farms in Australia but we have no doubt that these projects will end up completed and can start making their investments back. We’ll be watching closely how the AEMO’s ongoing changes to legislation affects the many other solar farms currently in various stages of completion/operation. 

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Aldoga Solar Farm | Construction & Energy Submission

The Aldoga solar farm in Gladstone has lodged documents with the Federal Government and is one step closer to wards commencing the construction phase. 

Aldoga solar farm

Aldoga Solar Farm Gladstone Aerial Shot
Aldoga Solar Farm Gladstone Aerial Shot (source: dsdmip.qld.gov.au)

The Aldoga solar farm is to be designed, built and operated by global energy giant Acciona Energy, who have been in Australia since 2002 and certainly know the lay of the land. It will be a 265MW farm and Acciona have already signed a 30 year lease with the State Government. It will be located at Aldoga over 1,250 hectares and is hoped to act as a “precedent for the delivery of further economic opportunities offered from a growing renewable energy sector.”

State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Minister Cameron Dick announced in April that Acciona Energy was chosen out of 16 applicants to build the solar farm in Gladstone.

“Combined with the renewable energy that will be generated, and the lease payments that will be made to the state, this project represents a major boost to the local community – economically, environmentally and socially,” Mr Dick said.

According to the report Acciona provided to the Department of Environment and Energy on July 6 (you can click here to view it), the farm will use solar panels with single axis tracking so that harvested sunlight can be maximised. 

“There is an alternative option to install a fixed-tilt mounting structure; however, preliminary studies suggest that the single-axis tracker will be more desirable from an energy production perspective,” the report said.

At maximum capacity (265MW AC), the project is estimated to supply up to 122,000 households (or 5x the amount of households in all of Gladstone). It will have a massive amount of solar panels to reach the 265MW – over one million!

It’s estimated that around 240 solar jobs will be created – with Acciona Energy adopting Buy Queensland and Gladstone Buy Local procurement policies, giving preference to local sub-contractors and manufacturers.

According to the Gladstone Observer, construction is set to run between October next year and November 2020, with the farm operating from Nov 2020 – Dec 2050. Wonder what a solar farm will look like then? 

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Darling Downs Solar Update | Jobs, Farms & More

Darling Downs solar is helping the area by providing jobs to locals and kickstarting the economy – with one council already approving $6b worth of wind and solar projects. There’s now a ‘buzz’ around the Darling Downs and renewable energy – let’s take a look at what they have in the pipeline!

Darling Downs Solar 

Darling Downs Solar Farm
Darling Downs Solar Farm (source: Origin Energy)

“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 in comments to the ABC

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

In Warwick, the 154,000 megawatt-hour generating UQ / Warwick Solar Farm is to be installed on ‘good agricultural land’ has had to wage a battle against NIMBY detractors. Mayor Tracy Dobie defended her decision (she had the deciding vote to allow the farm DA):

“This region is about growth and development and we can sit here and go poor slowly or we can progress our region and the more development we can get in our region the more jobs,” Ms Dobie said.

“The more progress we can make, the better off we are.”

Mayor Dobie continued to discuss the project and what she sees the future of renewable energy in the Darling Downs as looking like:

“This is a turning point in our region to show we are moving forward, that we are looking to the future, and there is nothing more evident than that than renewable energy.

“There’s a buzz about the Darling Downs, this is a great place to be and great time to be here.”

Toowoomba Solar

There’s been an amazing amount of renewable energy movement in Toowoomba – with the billion dollar project at Bulli Creek approved by the Tooowoomba Council. This will be built by Solar Choice over a 10 year staggered period. 

Toowoomba mayor Paul Antonio spoke about the concerns some residents may have and why he’s happy to continue approving solar farms:

“I guess we have to be a bit cautious of the type of land we put it on, but in saying that, the land is restorable, its not going to be destroyed in any mining effort or anything like that, and in 20, 30, 40 years’ time that land will be back to full production.”

Have a look at the short video below from ABC Landline which was part of an article about using ‘good farmland’ for solar farms. 

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Rooftop solar subsidies – ACCC calls for axe.

Rooftop solar subsidies should be completely removed and the solar feed-in tariffs should be managed at a state rather than a federal level, according to recommendations from the competition watchdog.

Rooftop solar subsidies in Australia

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s electricity affordability report, which was released this week, highlights the cost of our National Energy Market, which include the large-scale renewable energy target, the small-scale renewable energy scheme and solar feed-in tariffs.

The ACCC said the cost of the LRET are expected to fall in the years after 2020, and were happy to leave the scheme to wind up on its 2030 end date. They said that the SRES, however, cost $130 million in 2016-17, and should be wound down and abolished by 2021, almost ten years ahead of schedule, to reduce costs for all consumers – not just those with solar installed.

The report, according to the Australian, found that households with solar panels installed earn $538 per year via feed-in tariffs, which doesn’t count the fact that they pay less for electricity as well:

“Meanwhile, non-solar households and businesses have faced the burden of the cost of premium solar feed-in tariff schemes and the SRES,” the ACCC said.

“While premium solar schemes are closed to new consumers, the costs of these schemes are ­enduring.”

With the New South Wales solar feed-in tariff to drop by 44% this financial year, the glory days of feed-in tariffs could be behind us. But at what point do we stop to count the social cost (i.e. the environmental displacement)? 

Rooftop solar subsidies in Australia - Opposition Leader Bill Shorten
Rooftop solar subsidies in Australia – Opposition Leader Bill Shorten (source: Wikipedia)

The 398 page report has ‘produced vital ammunition to reform energy’, has been ‘hijacked by zealots’ and doesn’t justify the building of new coal-fired power stations, depending on who you ask. About an hour ago Bill Shorten admitted he hasn’t read the ACCC report yet so it’ll be interesting to see what his thoughts are. Certainly just early days for this conversation, but it’s good to see Australia talking about our energy future and trying to come up with a plan. Watch this space! 

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Solar PV installations in Australia Triple From 2017

Solar PV installations in Australia have tripled in the first half of 2018 in comparison to solar uptake in 2017. How will this affect our renewable economy and can we expect this to continue for the rest of the year? Where are all the installs coming from? Let’s take a look. 

Solar PV installations in Australia

Solar PV installations in Australia Triple From 2017 (source: Canberra Times via Green Energy Markets)
Solar PV installations in Australia Triple From 2017 (source: Canberra Times via Green Energy Markets)

The Canberra Times is reporting that household systems are now, on average, around 5 kilowatts. As the technology improves we’ll see this figure rise and (potentially) prices fall. They’ll certainly fall in terms of per watt pricing but the system uptake has resulted in 44% lower feed-in tariffs in New South Wales already – we’ll have to wait and see how this affects the rest of the country. It certainly doesn’t seem to have curbed the ACT’s appetite for solar systems – with the state leading Australia by a huge margin with a 130.8% uptake in installs over Q1+2 in 2018 vs. the same period. 

Green Energy Markets are also predicting that by 2020 renewable energy will represent around 33% (1/3) of Australia’s energy mix – almost double the 17.3% measured in 2015. Ric Brazzale of Green Energy Markets told the Canberra Times they are expecting to see around 30% higher figures by the end of the year:

“If we continue on at the same rate of installations we will end the year at between 1450 MW to 1500 MW – this will be more than 30 per cent higher than the 1100 MW installed last year,” he said.

It’s important to note that the amazing growth commercial solar (i.e. systems which are more than 15kW) has also seen over the last 12 months is heavily reflected in these figures. Over a quarter of June’s solar system demand is due to companies wanting to insure themselves from rapidly rising electricity prices and take control of their bills back by installing a commercial solar system on their premises. 

If you’re interested in reading all the specifics of their report, please click here to download Green Markets’ Renewable Energy Index for May 2018.

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Western Downs green power hub council approval.

The Western Downs green power hub planned by French renewable giant Neoen has received council approval for a solar farm of size up to 500MW. This impressive project promises to bring  North Queensland solar jobs and continue the large-scale solar revolution in Queensland and Australia.

The Western Downs green power hub

The Western Downs green power hub
The Western Downs green power hub proposed location (source: westerndownsgreenpowerhub.com.au)

The Western Downs green power hub will be located 22km south of Chinchilla and 62km north west of Dalby, according to RenewEconomy. No word on the specifics of the gear they will use, but a huge 1500 hectares of ground mounted solar panels will feed two hectares of battery energy storage. This is going to be a gigantic undertaking.

According to the website for the green power hub, they’ll produce around 1.05MWh (million megawatt hours) per year.

“A combination of an ambitious Queensland Renewable Energy Target and a proactive government to meet those targets provide highly favourable conditions for renewable energy projects in the State,” Neoen says on the website.

“Consequently, the company will expedite the development of Western Downs Green Power Hub, as well as several other projects in Queensland.”

Construction was initially slated to commence in Q3 this year but it now looks like mid a 2019 start date will be more likely, according to the website.

“Construction is expected to start mid 2019 providing employment opportunities for the region.”

An article from the Chronicle in September last year (when it was being touted as a 250MW solar plant) noted that the consturction phase of the project will generate up to 300 solar jobs and between two to four during regular usage.

Neoen have been responsible for a number of huge projects across Australia recently:

 

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Clare solar farm in North Queensland now online.

The Clare solar farm, Queensland’s biggest solar farm at 100MW capacity, has connected to the grid and started exporting renewable energy. This is one of many solar projects due in 2018, totalling around 1400MW.

About the Clare Solar Farm

Clare Solar Farm
Clare Solar Farm (source: claresolarfarm.com.au)

The Clare solar farm project is located around 35km south-west from Ayr in North Queensland. It’s the biggest operating solar farm in the state, dwarfing the incumbent 50MW Kinston solar project. It is owned by Lighthouse Solar who also have ownership of the Hughenden solar farm which has a 20MW capacity and is about to begin production itself. 

We wrote about the Clare solar farm last July when it was a 125MW plant potentially going up to 150MW. It’s been launched with 100MW with the space to potentially expand down the track. They’ve signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Origin Energy along with the Bungala solar farm, which will be the biggest solar farm in Australia when it completes later this year.

According to the Clean Energy Council, around $2.6 billion of solar projects will be connected to the grid in 2018, adding around 1400MW of capacity. A solar forum held in Brisbane by the CEC last week noted that the boom in solar investment (both domestic and commercial) has led to 2760 Australian solar jobs added to the economy. 

“Large-scale solar has gone from an emerging technology in Australia at the beginning of the decade to a genuinely game-changing form of power that is cheaper than new coal or gas. It has exceeded the expectations of even the most optimistic predictions,”  CEC chief executive Kane Thornton said in comments to RenewEconomy.

“Along with the national Renewable Energy Target, support from the Queensland Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has helped to make this one of the lowest-cost options we have for electricity today.”

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Solar in Bundaberg leads Australia’s top suburbs.

Solar in Bundaberg leads Australian suburbs for PV solar update as aerial imagery company Nearmap are reporting that last year 1078MW of rooftop solar systems were installed across Australia. Seven of the top ten suburbs are in Queensland and the other three are in Western Australia – with a huge bump in the number of rural and coastal towns installing more solar power systems than ever before. 

Solar in Bundaberg

Solar in Bundaberg
Solar in Bundaberg 2017 (source: RealEstate.com.au via Nearmap)

We’ve seen quite a lot of work done in Bundaberg so it’s no surprise to see they are the biggest suburb in Australia with the highest solar power uptake. Walking around you can see systems on many roofs and Stockland are installing a solar system on top of their Bundaberg shopping centre.

Nearmap executive Shane Preston discussed how they were able to use their software to have a visual on how much the landscape has changed, and how we will see even more as the technology/price continues to move in the right direction. Mr. Preston noted that using technology like Nearmap allow you to have a clearer look on how much solar is actually being installed in households Australia wide:

“But when you look at it from the air, you can observe in incredible detail the renewable energy uptake occurring across our country,’’ he said.

“As the benefits of renewable energies like solar continue to surface, we can expect to see more demand for installations,’’ he continued, in comments made to news.com.au.

Nearmap (visit their website here) worked with the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) to come up with the statistics (in a sense – as per Your Mortgage, Nearmap flew over 88% of the population in urbanised areas six times in the last year to help document Australia’s solar revolution) – so even though the statistics come from the CER they’ve been helped along by Nearmap’s great service. 

Australia’s Biggest Solar Suburbs

Bundaberg North – 11,756
Erskine – 11,409
Nikenbah – 10,517
Caloundra – 9308
Toowoomba – 8580
Hocking – 8416
Pacific Pines – 7724
Mackay – 7263
Raceview – 7295
Canning Vale – 7116

 

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Gladstone Solar Power – Installers, Plants, and more.

Gladstone solar – Gladstone has been experiencing a massive amount of interest in solar power over the last 18 months – both for residents and as a potential hotspot for solar farms. 

For a town that’s traditionally been ‘coal-based’, they’ve been very quick and forward thinking to jump on the renewables train (North Queensland solar has been growing exponentially for all of 2017)  – so if you’re looking for solar installers in Gladstone or just want to read about our projections for renewable energy in the region, please read on!

Gladstone Solar Power Installers
Gladstone Solar Power Installers (source: statedevelopment.qld.gov.au)

Solar Installers in Gladstone

Residential solar in Gladstone has been growing rapidly and there are a number of reliable installers in the local area – if you want to get a 5kw system installed, a Tesla Powerwall (or any other type of solar battery), please contact one of the installers below (and let us know how you get on!):

Do you install solar in Gladstone and would like to be included on this page? Please email us

Gladstone Solar Farms

As of October 2017 the Gladstone Observer noted that Mayor Matt Burnett has discussed their desire to become a “renewable hub” and that “numerous” companies had been courting the city in the hopes of being approved to install solar/wind farms in Gladstone. Cr Burnett noted that this doesn’t necessarily represent a ‘change’ from coal to solar, more so a diversification. 

“I believe one of these projects will start in the next 18 months, if not in the next 12 months,” Cr Burnett told the Observer – and it certainly seems that way. 

Eco Energy World has submitted a DA to build the Raglan Solar Farm at 75 and 199 Epala Road, and there is a shortlist of five companies looking to build at the Gladstone State Development Area. There’s also talk of a 450MW renewable hub at Aldoga. We’ll keep you updated with any news with regards to solar in Gladstone, watch this space! 

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