Proposed Lower Wonga solar farm gets green light to move ahead, with plans underway to make it even bigger.
Proposed Lower Wonga solar farm gets green light to move ahead, with plans underway to make it even bigger. Contributed

Bigger and better: plans for solar farm juice up

Switch flicked on for solar farm: Lower Wonga development gets green light, with work expected to start next year.

WET weather could not put a damper on renewable energy yesterday, with official approval given for the Lower Wonga solar farm to begin.

And the project could be getting even bigger too, with plans to expand the 800 megawatt development to a 1000MW farm with battery storage.

While approvals for the expansion were still required, SolarQ managing director Scott Armstrong said the increased scope of the Gympie Energy Hub farm had multiple benefits.

"The aim there is one, substation will take that size development... and the other one is to get a four-year program of work, not a six-month program, so we'll actually keep people on for four years," he said.

It would also help with training and apprenticeships, he said.


Scott Armstrong managing director of SolarQ at Lower Wonga Sub Station near Gympie.
Scott Armstrong at the Lower Wonga sub station near Gympie. Renee Albrecht

With a start date still expected for July, he expected job recruitment to start about April.

"I get significant calls from people who live in the area who do fly-in fly-out, very excited about a project on their doorstep," he said.

It was not all skilled work, either.

"A lot of it is fabrication- type work... it won't be 450 electricians."

They had already started looking at what local companies could be involved as well.

"We've spoken to a lot, from some Widgee engineering companies right through to some fairly substantial electrical engineering companies based out of Gympie as well," he said.

"That's one reason we've gone through the Chamber of Commerce as well, to tie into the local area."

Mr Armstrong also said neither the federal nor state governments had provided financial support.

With a final expected price tag of $2 billion, he said they expected to have paid about $500 million by July.

To help with that goal, he was pleased to announce that Canadian-based renewable energy company Amp had partnered with SolarQ on the development.

"It shows today this is a real project," Gympie Region Mayor Mick Curran said.

While there had been some objections from residents about the solar farm, Cr Curran said the council had moved to address the majority through the 45 conditions placed on its development.