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Powering the region

by
August 04, 2017

Solar panels at the Williamdale Solar farm outside Canberra, similar to what would be installed at Wunghnu. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

A significant solar farm proposal planned for between Shepparton and Numurkah may come before Moira Shire Council later this month, as the council’s boss put his cautious support behind the idea.

The $170million plan for land east of Wunghnu, awaiting approval, is the brainchild of Paris-based company Neoen Australia.

The group expects the development will produce 100 megawatts of power into the grid, from 350000 solar panels on the 500ha site.

Moira Shire chief executive Mark Henderson remained confident the ‘‘substantial project’’ could sure up power supply into shire towns and help prevent ‘‘significant power fluctuations’’ experienced.

The plan is estimated to create more than 200 jobs during the construction phase, expected to inject ‘‘a lot of cash into the local economy,’’ and about five operational jobs on an ongoing basis.

Mr Henderson said the shire regularly found power supply into its towns was not adequate and anything that injected new energy into market was in the council’s view good for business.

‘‘It’s got to be an advantage to have increased supply capacity coming into the region,’’ he said.

The company said the clean power development would be equivalent to taking either 75000 cars off the road or planting 390000 trees, producing enough electricity to power about 42000 homes with renewable energy.

The site was chosen because of the abundant solar resource, proximity to an existing electricity sub-station, adequate local electricity load with potential for growth, supportive landholders and low anticipated visual impact.

Mr Henderson said there was only select locations ideal for such developments, dependent on proximity to high-voltage connection lines.

A mediation session hoping to find some middle ground had recently been organised with a number of objectors to the project.

Following this session, the shire said a number of the detractors were satisfied with the project.

He said issues objectors raised were about the traffic impact during the construction phase and visual amenity.

Mr Henderson understood the significant footprint of the project and impact on the landscape, but said the council would protect the road network.

‘‘After that, these are relatively benign projects,’’ Mr Henderson said, anticipating life would ‘‘return to normal’’ following the construction phase.

Mr Henderson said the council was supportive of renewable energy projects and would do its best to address the concerns of neighbours.

‘‘When you’re used to looking at a dairy farm, and suddenly there’s solar panels, it’s a change in landscape,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ll do our best to minimise the impact.

‘‘We’re optimistic it’s a genuinely serious project. Subject to the planning process, we’ll do everything we can’t to support it.’’

OTHER PROPOSED SOLAR FARMS

■Ferguson Rd, Tatura. CleanGen proposes a 45MW development on 125ha, with 162000 solar panels at a cost of about $50million. The construction is expected to generate about 210 jobs. The group claims the facility would be the equivalent to 17000 cars being taken off the road, offset 104000 tonnes of carbon and create an equivalent to powering 24000 homes.

■A $220million solar farm is proposed for Finley. Australian company ESCO Pacific is planning a 170MW development, which is equivalent to powering 80000 homes.

■Two solar farms are proposed near Deniliquin; one to generate up to 175MW at Mayrung; another to generate about 90MW at Blighty.

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