Telstra underpins 70 MW Queensland solar farm

In order to hedge against wholesale electricity price spikes while helping to reduce emissions, Australia’s telecommunications provider Telstra has decided to distance itself from the grid entering a long-term PPA for a 70 MW solar farm near Emerald in northern Queensland.

The AU$100 million deal was signed with RES Australia, the Australian arm of the U.K. renewable energy giant, which will act as EPC on the project.

Highlighting the fact that this would create 200 jobs in construction, the Queensland government welcomed Telstra’s move.

Energy Minister Mark Bailey said the company’s commitment was a vote of confidence in the Government’s priorities – jobs in regional Queensland and the creation of a new large-scale renewable energy sector.

“More than one gigawatt of privately funded renewable energy projects are currently in the works delivering more than $2 billion of new investment to Queensland and around 2,000 direct jobs, mostly in our regions,” Bailey said.

Although the falling costs of renewables and escalating wholesale prices create an adequate setting for the growth of the corporate PPA market for renewable energy in Australia, not much progress has been seen.

The most notable move to date took place earlier this month when zinc producer Sun Metals broke ground on its own 125 MW solar farm, which is set to create 210 solar powered jobs.

“It’s commitments like these from major companies like Telstra that show the increasing importance of renewables in Queensland’s, and indeed Australia’s, energy mix,” the minister said.

Bailey said that once all 16 large-scale renewable energy projects committed in Queensland come online, they will double the current renewable generation capacity.

“Large-scale projects such as the 25 MW Barcaldine Solar Farm are beginning to feed into our grid and more large scale projects will start to come online as a result of the Palaszczuk Government’s Solar 150 initiative, including the Whitsunday Solar Farm, Kidston Solar Project, Oakey Solar Farm, and the Longreach Solar Farm,” the minister said.

Construction of the Emerald solar project is penciled in to start in the second half of the year and be commissioned in 2018.

According to estimates, Telstra accounts for 1 % of Australia’s total electricity demand.