The Queensland solar farm at the centre of a legal battle with the state government earlier this year has narrowly avoided being damaged by fire, in one of more than 60 blazes being fought around the state on Monday morning.
RenewEconomy can confirm that the fire – which has now been contained, and in which no one was hurt – threatened the under construction 35MW Brigalow Solar Farm in Yarranlea, near Pittsworth.
The Queensland Fire and Emergency Services said a grass fire started just after 9am “as the result of a rubbish fire” at the solar farm site.
And a news report on the Facebook page of ABC Southern Queensland quoted authorities as saying infrastructure including conduits and solar panel boxes had been caught up in the blaze.
A spokesperson for Impact Investment Group, which owns the project, could not confirm the extent of any damage, or the cause of the fire, but said it had been contained to the “lay-down area,” and that ongoing development of the solar farm would not be affected.
“While we won’t know the actual cause of the fire for some time, we know the location of the start,” the spokesperson said. “It was within the laydown area, which is where the materials that will be used on the solar farm are deposited and stored until use. It did not start in an operational or ‘under construction’ part of the solar farm.”
Brigalow is perhaps best known as the solar farm that nixed the Palaszczuk Labor government’s controversial but short-lived rule change allowing only licensed electricians to mount and fix PV panels on projects of 100kW and over.
The government had argued that the rule change was a necessary safety measure, rushed through in response to claims that unskilled labourers were being employed to do electrical work on solar farms in the state.
The solar industry – and not just in Queensland – was incensed by the move, which they saw as ill thought-out and excessively prohibitive. But it was Brigalow’s developers, Maryrorough Solar, who took the case to the state’s Supreme Court.
Lane Crockett – one of Maryrorough Solar’s company’s directors, and the head of renewables for the Mike Cannon-Brookes backed Impact Investment Group – had argued in an affidavit that Brigalow project costs would increase by $2.6 million, and works delayed as around 60 licensed electricians were sourced for the job.
As we reported at the time, the Supreme Court found in Maryrorough Solar’s favour, and declared the government’s rule change “invalid” – a decision that was upheld up in a subsequent appeal – forcing the minister for industrial relations back to the negotiating table.
Queenslanders, meanwhile, are being given an untimely reminder of why Brigalow and the huge number of other renewable energy projects in the state’s development pipeline, are so important.
Acting premier Jackie Trad held a news conference on Monday morning to brief the media on the unprecedented early start to the bushfire season that had shrouded the state in smoke from around 65 separate fires.
A fire emergency has also been declared in northern New South Wales, with fires on multiple fronts in near Armidale and Tenterfield.