- Case Study
The western boom
Just beyond Toowoomba lies the Western Downs; a regional shire fast becoming one of Queensland’s renewable powerhouses. Located within the greater Darling Downs region, the Western Downs is putting in the groundwork to capture the bright future of renewable energy projects in the state government’s funding pipeline.
With the Darling Downs making up the largest percentage of solar in Queensland’s renewables pipeline (40% according to CSQ modelling), the Western Downs will clearly play a vital role in the success of the region and state’s renewable future.
As Ian Macfarlane, CEO of Queensland Resources Council, says, “the Western Downs is blessed with the full range of energy sources and its renewable energy generation consolidates Queensland’s role as the heavy lifter in the National Electricity Market.”
In addition to solar projects in the pipeline are a range of other renewable energy projects. Western Downs Regional Council Mayor, Paul McVeigh notes:
“We have approved 24 solar farms within the region from a range of 20Mwh to 1,000Mwh. We have three windfarms in our region, we have a battery storage already operating out of Wandoan and more battery storage is coming. We have hydrogen coming to our region. It’s exciting to see what’s happening in the renewable energy space.”
The Western Downs has in excess of 12.5Mwh of generation in the pipeline. This huge pipeline aligns with a recent CSQ/QMCA Major Projects Pipeline report stating that renewable energy is “well-positioned to pick up over the long-term”.
As the report notes, “[Renewable projects] could require $13.9b annual investment over the next 30 years. This will catalyse an almost permanent demand for civil construction labour, with an estimated 14,500 to 26,700 new jobs possibly required, more than half of which will be in regional and remote Queensland.”
With so many projects in the pipeline, pressures are already mounting on workforce capability.
Working with the Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise (TSBE), CSQ has signalled skilling and access to skilled workers the greatest challenges facing the region’s growth, particularly in relation to the pipeline of renewable projects.
TSBE CEO Ali Davenport says, “One of the big challenges in having success in the transition into renewable is about driving the capacity of local manufacturing jobs and to actually encourage local content. We all have a role to play in partnering for the success of renewable energies into the future.”
CSQ’s partnership with TSBE continues to investigate the issues facing the region so it can take full advantage of the huge pipeline of renewable projects coming up. This industry investigation has focussed on the variety of skills and workers needed to ensure the region’s workforce is fully prepared.
TSBE has also been busy in setting up frameworks for the region’s renewable success. Activities such establishing the Sothern Queensland Hydrogen Industry Institute and working towards establishing the Southern Queensland Renewable Energy Zone will prove vital in ensuring the success of upcoming renewable projects within the Western Downs.
According to Ms Davenport there are four things that need to be prioritised by government and business: “We need to make sure that first and foremost we have the skilled workers to be able to build these big projects. We also need to support local manufacturing because we shouldn’t be bringing all of the componentry in from overseas. Thirdly, we need to make sure that we’ve got really good infrastructure that can handle renewable energy, and the last thing, of course, is we need deep storage.”
The Western Downs is another example of the strong role regional Queensland is playing in the state’s bright renewable future.