In a matter of weeks it will be shovels in the ground for Australia’s newest and eventually largest solar farm.

French renewable energy producer Neoen plans to build a 400 megawatt (MW) solar farm on Queensland’s Western Downs starting in July and finishing in early 2022.

Today a major step was taken with news that publicly owned renewable energy generator CleanCo will buy 80 per cent of the energy generated.

When it is fully operational, the project will provide enough power for 235,000 homes.

The Queensland government is hoping the project will help the state’s economic recovery from COVID-19 with the creation of 400 new jobs during construction.

“The best thing we can do to support Queensland jobs is to support investment in our state,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.


But its target is no certainty

Energy Minister Anthony Lynham said the development of Australia’s largest solar power project maintained Queensland’s progress in meeting its 50 per cent renewable energy project.

But others aren’t so sure.

Solar Citizens director Ellen Roberts welcomed today’s news but is less convinced that the government will hit its target.

“The government wants 50 per cent renewable by 2030 but we’re yet to see a plan about how to achieve that,” she told Stockhead.

“So we’ve been calling on the government to show how they’ll achieve it. There needs to be more announcements to stay on track.”

Solar Citizens is an independent, community-based renewable energy advocacy group.

Roberts also called for the government to ensure the benefit of renewable energy was felt across the state.

Despite not having a blueprint for its target, the government has provided funding for individual projects.

One is Genex Power’s (ASX:GNX) hydro project in the states north that received a $132m cash injection last September.

Roberts welcomed the certainty that came from Neoen already locking in a buyer for the majority of the energy that will produced from its solar farm.

“It’s an excellent announcement and good policy setting. This is a good way for state governments to guarantee a market for their power,” she said.

“There’s great potential for renewables with Queensland’s wind and sun resources but we need to make sure we get the transmission potential.

“We need to make sure we’re getting support right across the state so other places can see renewable energy projects.”