Solar Flagships set to sail in country NSW but will it survive?


Juat add 1,000,000 solar panels!

Nice to report on a good news story in renewable energy. News this week from ABC Broken Hill of negotiations which will see up to a third of a 600 hectare station to the west of Broken Hill covered in around one million (count ‘em) photovoltaic (PV) solar panels by 2015.

Geoff Luke, the owner of the station, told the ABC the finalised project was the result of protracted negotiations with energy company AGL.

“It would be close to two years now that we’ve been chatting about it and finally it looks like it’s come to fruition,” he said.

The partnership with AGL has been made possible by the opportunities provided by the often much maligned (by solar narks) Federal Government’s Solar Flagships Program. Mr Luke confirmed that the project had been accepted into the Flagship’s program and was ready to er…sail.

So let’s take a closer look at the Fed’s Solar Flagships Program. Originally set up with the express purpose of supporting “… the construction and demonstration of large-scale, grid connected solar power stations in Australia” the funding aims to promote the use of “… solar power playing a significant role in Australia’s electricity supply and operating within a competitive electricity market.” (Quotes taken from the Flagships’ website).

In the case of many projects — including the partnership between AGL and Geoff Luke’s Rob Day station — the result seems to be overwhelmingly positive. Not only is it promoting large scale solar power to reduce carbon emissions and pollution in our environment but also providing a renewable energy resource and opening another revenue stream for often cash-strapped farmers.

However the Solar Flagships Program may only have a limited life span, or its funding may be cut to such an extent that it is almost useless. I’m talking here of the threat of the election of Tony “Dr No” Abbott and his anti-solar hordes to federal office.

The precursor of the trend by conservative governments to back away from the program has been set in Queensland where Campbell “No Can Do” Newman has recently taken the opportunity to back away (at great speed) from a Solar Flagships Program project in Chinchilla. The $1.5 billion program has already survived attempts to strip it financially, and may have already been consigned to the garbage bin of renewable energy funding program history were it not for the continued support of the Greens. For more information on the plight of the program, check this Climate Spectator report here.

Will the Solar Flagships Program survive a conservative federal government in its current form? Your thoughts, as always, are welcome either here or over at our Facebook Page.

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