Queensland solar farm tapped to power technology giant

Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson |

The huge solar farm planned for regional Queensland will feature more than 250,000 panels.
The huge solar farm planned for regional Queensland will feature more than 250,000 panels.

Retail giant Amazon has revealed plans to sponsor a Queensland solar farm larger than 700 football fields and capable of powering more than 60,000 Australian homes each year.

The company on Wednesday announced it had partnered with renewable firm Vena Energy to launch commercial operations at its Woleebee project in Queensland’s Western Downs region. 

The solar farm will feature more than 250,000 solar photovoltaic panels and promises to generate up to 125 megawatts of electricity. 

The project is the fourth renewable energy investment for Amazon Australia, and comes after data showed the number of solar farms being activated in the nation fell during 2023. 

Amazon Asia Pacific energy and environmental policy head Ken Haig told AAP the solar farm, which would be owned and operated by Vena Energy, would help the company meet its goal of powering more of its operations with renewable electricity.

“We’re really excited about this project in particular because it’s our first project in Queensland,” he said.

“We’re on a path to meet 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025 and this project in Queensland is going to help us get there.”

Amazon’s Queensland solar investment will come in addition to two solar projects in NSW, at Suntop and Gunnedah, and a wind farm in Hawkesdale, Victoria. 

The company also operates rooftop solar projects on its facilities in Sydney and Melbourne, but Mr Haig said larger investments would be required to help the company meet its 2025 goal and plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2040.

“For the (Amazon Web Services) business, our energy needs are large enough that it would be challenging to meet that with rooftop solar alone,” he said.

Queensland Energy Minister Mick de Brenni said the solar farm investment was an endorsement of the state’s “legendary renewable resources” and would deliver more green jobs.

“As leaders in Australia’s clean energy transition, Queensland is committed to partnering with international business and industry to deliver local growth,” he said.

“Today’s announcement by Amazon and Vena Energy is further testament to the viability of our state for investment in renewable energy.”

The solar project will be part of a larger, 1000 gigawatt-hour project on the Western Downs, which will include Queensland’s largest utility-scale battery.

It will come online after a challenging year for large-scale projects, with SunWiz data showing Australia’s overall solar projects contracted last year, with lower numbers of solar farms behind the reduction. 

Australian industry installed 4.6 gigawatts of solar power in 2023 – down, according to SunWiz, from 5.6 gigawatts in 2022.

SunWiz managing director Warwick Johnston said the figures should be a warning for governments to help businesses invest more in renewable energy.

“This demonstrates the need for federal and state governments to implement policy changes that accelerate the development and construction of solar farms,” he said.

AAP