A substantial rise in solar PV farms on the Darling Downs risks causing major issues with energy supply networks if urgent grid updates are not undertaken to ensure the Darling Downs solar grid is future-proofed.
Darling Downs Solar Grid
According to The Chronicle, six projects worth almost $2 billion are planned for the Darling Downs region over the next few years. This includes a 5000-hectare plant at Millmerran (the largest solar farm in Australia), and the $200 million, 100MW Yarranlea solar farm.
State Minister for Energy, Biofuels and Water Supply Mark Bailey told the Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise National Energy Summit “at this stage” the Queensland Government don’t have any grid upgrades for the Toowoomba area planned – noting that they have upgraded the transmission line in North Queensland “because we’ve got so many projects happening there.” Bailey said that “…we will continue to review our system to make sure we can facilitate these projects.”
Federal Minister for Resources Senator Matthew Canavan was also drawn into the conversation, advising that we should be careful with the amount of renewable energy we source if we don’t have a clear path forward with regards to grid stability: “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 Chief Executive of Yarranlea Solar, Nick Canto, said that “major infrastructure upgrades” were required as the existing grid will not have the capacity to deal with the increased power load. Canto was also quoted on the 11th discussing Toowomba and the Surat Basin’s ‘extensive electrical transmission network’ – so it looks like he’s more worried about the grid’s ability to deal with such a large amount of renewable energy from multiple solar farms.