Qld Audit Office announces findings on Solar Farm project
  • Thursday 26 March 2015

Sunshine Coast Council has welcomed the outcome of the Queensland Audit Office (QAO) analysis of the Sunshine Coast Solar Farm project at Valdora which shows the audit results are satisfactory and there are no significant findings that need to be brought to council’s attention. QAO advised the analysis looked at project management and other governance arrangements put in place by the council and how those arrangements compared to what was generally accepted to represent best practice.

The audit office reviewed extensive documentation including the original and updated business cases incorporating the project’s underlying assumptions, expected cash flows and other estimates relevant to the project; reports on reviews of the original business case undertaken by independent experts; and a report on the feasibility study of the project undertaken by Energex.

Council minutes and relevant supporting papers, information relating to financial transactions and correspondence relevant to the project were also analysed.

A significant amount of information and documentation considered relevant to the project, including information in the public domain and information and documentation requested from the council was also reviewed.

Council CEO John Knaggs said the audit was a very rigorous review process of all transactions carried out by council up to this point and while not unexpected, he welcomed the findings of this extensive audit.

“The QAO thanked council’s staff for their prompt response to requests for information and appreciated the level of openness and cooperation shown during the audit,” Mr Knaggs said.

Sunshine Coast Council has submitted a development application to build the 15 megawatt (MW) solar farm at Valdora to offset the organisation’s entire electricity consumption at its facilities and operations, to become Australia’s first local government organisation to build a solar farm.

Subject to the outcome of the application and tender process, the project will see a utility scale solar farm installed on 24 hectares of the site’s 49 hectares.

The solar farm is estimated to save the council millions of dollars over a 30-year period based on today’s electricity costs, which are anticipated to increase substantially in the future.

Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson said every Coast ratepayer would benefit from the certainty this project provided in regard to council’s electricity expenditure in the context of combating rising electricity costs.

“As every ratepayer knows, electricity costs have escalated over the past decade and there’s no telling where the increases will stop, leaving council at high risk,” Mayor Jamieson said.

“This project will see us proactively take control of our electricity supply.

“This is certainly an exciting initiative which not only provides real savings for council and therefore our ratepayers, it also positions us as leaders in the renewable energy space. 

“We will be the first council to build a solar farm at utility scale in Australia and our residents can be very proud of the impact this will have as we strive to become Australia’s most sustainable region.”

The Mayor also noted that the development application was prepared external to council and is to be assessed by a qualified and independent planning consultant.

This consultant will be responsible for providing a recommendation to council on the merits of the development application.

Mayor Jamieson stressed this was essential to ensure appropriate due diligence was undertaken and there was transparency in regard to processing the development application.

A decision on the development application is expected mid-2015, which will be followed by council consideration of awarding a tender.

For more information on the solar farm visit council’s website www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au.

The Queensland Audit Office advice can be found at: http://bit.ly/1tmkd2U.