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Representing one of Australia’s largest clean energy projects to date, a 300 megawatt solar (MW) farm is set to be developed in Queensland’s Western Downs region.

The project, which was announced yesterday after approval was given by the Western Downs Regional Council, is priced at $300 million and will see a solar farm constructed between Miles and Chinchilla by Luminous Energy. It will provide 400 jobs in the region and five ongoing operation management positions.

The solar farm, which will be the largest solar project ever developed in Australia, is set to cover approximately 540 hectares; it is expected to take 18 months to construct and stretch across three progression stages.

Once the farm is constructed, roughly 110,000 homes across Western Downs and the greater regions will be powered by the giant 300 MW solar hub.

Speaking about the project, Western Downs Regional Council’s spokesperson for planning and environment, Andrew Smith, said, “The Western Downs is the perfect place for the establishment of associated renewable energy industries such as solar maintenance, and we’re open for business.

Western Downs’ new solar farm will also have benefits beyond economics and job creation, by helping encourage the “flow-on” of business development opportunities within renewable energy industries, according to Smith.

“Council processed this application in just seven weeks, so the message is clear; if you’re looking to invest in green, clean, renewable energy, talk to us first,” Smith said.

The region’s Mayor, Paul McVeigh, said the project will look to incorporate as many local industries as possible, including accommodation, supplies, and workers.

“One of the reason we are approached for these solar projects is because we have the connectivity, land and sunshine to be able to power anywhere along the east coast of Australia,” he said.

The solar farm isn’t the first clean energy project to appear in the Western Downs, however, as three other renewable developments have been approved across the region in the last twelve months.

Commencing early this year, the Darling Downs Solar Farm is set to be developed by Origin Energy and produce 105 MWs to power up to 32,000 homes a year. A smaller 30 MW solar farm will also be developed west of Toowoomba, covering over 80 hectares and land and creating 90 jobs.

A solar farm near Chinchilla was the last of the renewable energy projects announced in the region last year, which is set to provide an additional 90 jobs and 20 MW of energy.

“With so many projects being approved it will do wonders for the Western Downs, not only for the environment but also for the economy,” said McVeigh.

Introducing more renewable energy hubs across regional Australia falls close in line with the desire for energy change felt by the majority of rural Australians, with nine out of ten regional respondents saying they’re feeling the effects of climate change; according to a recent Climate Institute poll.

Out of the 2,000 Australians polled, 46 percent of regional respondents stated they believe coal-fired power stations should be phased out, with 53 percent identifying solar as their preferred energy source and wind and hydro distant runners up.

Image: Solar Farm. Source: Belectric UK.

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