When will the Nationals embrace big solar?

I am the renewable energy supporter who dressed up as “Sunny” the sun at the Rural Press Club Luncheon with Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce in Bendigo on Thursday.

After the lunch I met Barnaby and he was happy to receive a mounted and signed poster from Sunny, titled Let’s Build Big Solar, and pose for a photo.

Big solar means building large scale solar thermal (currently commercially operating in Spain and the US) and solar PV power stations as a positive “triple bottom line”, economic, social and environmental agenda for rural and regional Australia.

Our campaign has polled 1000 folk from the Bendigo district in the past two months and we found nearly 90 per cent support for building large-scale solar power stations in Australia.

We polled at swap meets, food and wine festivals and supermarkets.

Why? Building large-scale solar means keeping electricity prices low for Australians because the fuel is free, the cost of sunlight will never go up and solar is getting cheaper the more we build.

Solar PV has dropped in price by 80 per cent in the past 18 months.

It also means jobs and investment in rural Australia, in manufacturing, construction and operation of solar power stations.

It means protecting our precious farmland and not threatening our water supplies with coal mines and coal seam gas fracking.

It means a clean, green and climate safe environment for us all.

While Barnaby said our land is precious and he has always supported small business and farmers’ sovereignty over their land, he only made one comment on the coal industry – that it is helping farmers.

The coal and gas industry is currently mounting a widespread attack on farmland in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria and sparking a widespread protest movement by rural people.

The folk I polled at the Bendigo Food and Wine Festival were generally sceptical about large mining company influence on our political parties, who they perceive as captured by the big end of town.

Who are the Nationals going to stand for and when will they embrace big solar for rural and regional Australia?

Bernard Tonkin,