Woolworth Building, which has been the biggest and most successful Australian building company in the last two decades, is set to build a $400 million solar farm in Queensland.
Woolworth is a subsidiary of Chinese state-owned giant Sinohydro, which is behind the $9 billion A$50 billion solar power plant in Queensland that will eventually be linked to a major new transmission line.
It has said the $400m solar farm will be a major source of electricity for the building company, which also plans to build two new residential buildings with up to 100 solar panels.
The company is in the process of building a $1.5 billion battery-operated storage system that will be powered by its solar farm.
But the company’s plans are a huge step forward for the Australian industry, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimating that Australia produces around $12 billion of electricity annually.
According to the Bureau, Australia has the highest number of rooftop solar panels in the world at almost 13,000 per square metre.
“The Woolworth Solar project will help us build a robust system that can be used for renewable energy sources in all areas of the building that we build,” Woolworth’s chief executive, Simon Woolworth, said.
With the power coming from renewable sources, Mr Woolworth said Woolworth would look to “build the right kind of homes and build the right kinds of houses in the right places”.
“We’re a builder of great products,” he said.
“I can see it becoming a big business.
We’re going to have to have a lot of smart people, a lot more staff.”
In January, Woolworth announced that it would be investing $200 million into an artificial intelligence research lab to develop artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies.
There are also plans for Woolworth to launch a $50 million artificial intelligence platform in 2018.
Its solar farm, known as Seraphine, will sit at the edge of the existing Woolworth Group solar farm on the Queensland coast.
Mr Woolworth is keen to build the solar farm because it will help Woolworth achieve its vision of building an “infrastructure-ready” solar energy system, which includes a new transmission lines and a new battery system.
In order to create the $1 billion in electricity that Woolworth plans to generate from its solar project, it will be using its existing solar farm’s energy from its existing batteries.
On Monday, the Woolworth chief executive announced that the company had signed a new 10-year contract with Chinese state company Sinohydrro.
Sinohydro is behind a $9.5bn solar power project that will link to a new Queensland transmission line, which will eventually allow it to export power to Queensland.
Sinohydros solar farm is due to be completed by the end of 2021.
At the time, Woolie said the deal would see the company create 400 new jobs in Australia, which would help “create a significant new revenue stream”.
“The investment will create about 1,000 direct and indirect jobs, more than the 1,500 in Australia that we have now,” Mr Woolie told reporters on Monday.
He said the investment would also be an economic driver, helping to boost Australia’s economy and create jobs.
As part of the deal, Sinohydrolos will provide $3.5 million in loan guarantees.
A spokesman for the company told TechCrunch that the project would also create 200 jobs in Queensland and would contribute to the company becoming a “major renewable energy player”.
According, the company will build the project from scratch, with a first-of-its-kind solar farm located at the base of the Woolie building.
When the Woolies new solar farm project opens, it is expected to generate enough electricity to power two homes.
This is a major step forward in Woolworths solar project plans, with it aiming to be the world’s biggest solar energy farm by the time the project is finished.
Meanwhile, Woolies construction site in New South Wales, which was originally set to house about 250 jobs, will now house just 200 people.
Instead, the building site is set for redevelopment and is being used to build out a new manufacturing facility.