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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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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Logan solar trial to go ahead for low-income households.

Logan solar power has received a boost as Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s state government offer a solar trial for low-income families, following the success of similar schemes in Cairns and Rockhampton. 

Logan Solar Systems for low-income households

Logan Solar Systems for low-income househoulds
Logan Solar Systems for low-income househoulds (source: AFR.com)

According to Yahoo, the solar panels will be installed on selected state-owned homes in the Waterford, Coomera, Woodridge, Logan, Algester and Springwood electorates. It appears that a discounted per kilowatt-hour price will be offered to those who join the scheme. 

Click here to view the statement on the Queensland government’s website about expressions of interest to find an energy partner for the Logan solar trial. 

Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lynham spoke about the savings that can be had for families undertaking this scheme:

“The Queensland Government is committed to increasing the uptake of renewable energy to drive jobs and investment and reduce emissions.

“In Cairns and Rockhampton we are expecting to see savings of up to $250 per year on electricity bills and we want to bring savings to tenants in Logan as well,” Dr Lynham said.

According to the press release, more than 800 solar panel systems have been installed in Cairns and Rockhampton as part of the scheme; and now it’s greater Brisbane’s turn. 

The possibility of solar job creation through this scheme is something the government is also carefully considering: 

“One aspect we will look at is whether the successful tenderer will employ local tradies, including electricians and suppliers,” State Development Minister Cameron Dick said on Monday.

“Logan households will then be invited to participate in the program.”

“The Palaszczuk Government is committed to helping Queenslanders with their cost of living pressures and this will help some of our most vulnerable people,” Mr Dick continued.

Click here to view the statement on the Queensland government’s website about expressions of interest to find an energy partner for the Logan solar trial.  It’s also on the QTenders website from 9 July 2018 – https://www.hpw.qld.gov.au/qtenders/

Great news for those following Annastacia Palaszczuk’s environmental policies after also announcing no-interest solar loans in QLD earlier this year under their ‘Powering Queensland’s Future’ plan.

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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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