Situated in the far north of Queensland over 900 kms north of the state capital Brisbane, the city of Mackay – and its surrounding region – makes use of its abundant solar energy resources to grow one third of Australia’s sugar. Being known as the country’s sugar capital must lead to many jokes when visitors are asked if they want sugar in their tea or coffee, but Mackay residents know they are living in a special part of the world.
However sugar is not the only resource, with coal mining forming the backbone of the economy. The city is also popular with tourists, who enjoy the region’s humid subtropical climate and proximity to the Great Barrier Reef and superb Whitsunday Islands.
With such a proud coal mining history you wouldn’t expect Mackay to be a leader in renewable options such as solar energy would you? But that is exactly what is occurring as Mackay residents – as those throughout Australia – battle escalating energy prices and rising carbon emissions with solar power systems.
A recent sign of Mackay’s ongoing PV progress was an announcement in May 2018 that Mackay Regional Council was investing a further $2 million in solar power. It was also a recipient of a prestigious Premier’s Sustainability Award in the category of Built Environment for the sustainable building of Council’s Paget Depot precinct, which features rainwater harvesting and solar panels for energy.
As for the businesses and residents of Mackay, they've been embracing solar panels too. As at the end of June 2020, more than 9,990 small-scale solar power systems had been installed in the Mackay postcode region, collectively boasting a total capacity of a whisker under 56 megawatts.
Solar power leads the way in a fossil fuel region? So it seems.