Cattle Farmers near Clarkes Creek, Isaac are about to get wind and solar farms on their properties. Robert Sherry
Cattle Farmers near Clarkes Creek, Isaac are about to get wind and solar farms on their properties. Robert Sherry Stuart Quinn

This community welcomes blow-ins and bright ideas

EXCLUSIVE: When an Isaac cattleman says something is big then you better believe it's going to be huge.

And "big" is how the cattlemen involved in one of the state's largest renewable energy developments describe the proposed Clarke Creek Wind Farm that will be built on their land.

The development, a solar farm and up to 200 wind turbines, will be connected to the power grid through high voltage lines that run through the cattlemen's property powering most of North Queensland.

Wahroonga station owner Robert Sherry (pictured) has been on his 10,000-hectare property for about two decades and runs 1200 head of cattle here.

His is one of the eight properties around Clarke Creek that will be home to the massive project.

"It will be up there along the ridge that runs from here right down to Marlborough," Mr Sherry said.

He is not sure exactly how many turbines will be on his property, so says he isn't sure of any additional income he will receive.

But what he does know is that a wind farm in this location will give his property another income stream.

"It will drought-proof the property," he said.

While he was talking to The Daily Mercury a truck arrived loaded with measuring equipment setting up another test site to measure wind speed.

"The planning is well advanced. They could have a couple of sites here," he said.

 

Wind and Solar farms to be built in Isaac. The main power lines heading to North Queensland that the wind farms will connect to
Wind and Solar farms to be built in Isaac. The main power lines heading to North Queensland that the wind farms will connect to Stuart Quinn

And while cattle will always be Mr Sherry's bread and butter, he along with some of the other graziers in the area are getting up to speed on renewable energy.

"They are looking for the best sites," he said, referring to the truck rolling through his property. He said the better the wind, the more viable the project will be and the better the return on investment for the project's investors.

The company, Lacour Energy, has had monitoring equipment positioned on this particular land for about two years, and now with State Government approval the project is closer to becoming a reality.

But for Mr Sherry it's not just about the potential for his property but the potential for the entire region.

"Every land holder in this area is going to benefit from it," he said.

"They would spend some money on the road (Sarina-Marlbrough Rd)."

He said the road used to be the main highway many years ago, but since the Bruce Hwy was constructed the money to maintain the road through Clarke and Lotus creeks has dried up.

"We used to have four service stations on this road," he said.

Now most were abandoned and in disrepair after years of neglect, all that was left now in the area were abandoned shops and homes, cattle, dried up creeks, open pastures, ranges and power lines.

 

Wind and Solar farms to be built in Isaac. Abandoned Motel along Marlborough Sarina road
Wind and Solar farms to be built in Isaac. Abandoned Motel along Marlborough Sarina road Stuart Quinn

And it's the last two that makes the area so appealing to power generators.

"I haven't heard anything negative from the community about it," Mr Sherry said.

The advantage of the site was that it was about five kilometres from the main road and neighbours.

But to ensure its success in winning over the community, Lacour Energy will invest money into the community that for so long has relied on the peaks and troughs of the cattle industry. Right now a long spell of dry weather has forced some graziers to reduce stock, and the higher cattle prices they were getting 12 months ago has evaporated - like much of the water in the local creeks.

This development is something to get the graziers excited. "They are spending $200,000 a year on the community in Isaac and Livingston shires," Mr Sherry said, adding he had heard Clarke Creek would be getting "$10,000-$15,000 and out here that is a lot of money".

He said once constructed the new wind project will employ about 20-25 people, and that's an opportunity for people with trades to move into the area, or give an opportunity for graziers' kids to get jobs.

Clarke Creek State School has 16 students this year, about double what it was a few years ago. And if the school gets five more students, then it will get a second teacher.

 

Elizabeth and David Hill
Elizabeth and David Hill Stuart Quinn

About 17km down the road, we find Mr Sherry's neighbours, David and Elizabeth Hill, who could also home some of the wind turbines.

Approvals are already in place to have a solar farm on their property.

Mr Hill explains the equipment would come from down south and it would require road upgrades to get the massive amount of equipment in to the site from the coast.

Farmers knew all too well the potential of the development, he said.

"They consulted with the community. There was another solar farm near here that went in and no one was consulted," he said. "They said they didn't have to."

But here, "There will be very little impact," Mr Hill said.

He said the range where the turbines will be constructed was about four kilometres from the nearest homes.



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