- Thursday 23 April 2015
Sunshine Coast Council’s quest to become Australia’s first local government to build a utility scale solar farm is powering ahead. The Council today approved a development application to build a 15 megawatt (MW) solar farm at Valdora which will offset the organisation’s entire electricity consumption across all its facilities and operations.
The development application was prepared external to Council and assessed by a qualified and independent planning consultant.
This consultant was responsible for providing a recommendation to Council on the merits of the development application.
Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson stressed this was essential to ensure appropriate due diligence was undertaken, there was transparency in regard to assessing the development application and that Council could remain independent and objective regarding the application.
The project will see the 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.
Mayor 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, isolating Council from increased price risk.
“It will provide ongoing cost savings, even if electricity price growth is relatively modest.”
Divisional and Economic Development (New and Emerging Industries) Portfolio Councillor Stephen Robinson described the decision as a major step forward in the critical, game-changing project, not only for council and its residents, but also for the clean-tech sector.
“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,” Cr Robinson said.
“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.
“Council has undertaken extensive analysis on the potential budget savings the solar farm project can provide and will continue to do so.
“Naturally any savings forecast includes the up-front build costs, in addition to the on-going operational costs for the farm.
“The solar farm has scope to provide positive economic, social and environmental outcomes, all of which are absent if we continue to purchase electricity direct from a retailer.”
The independent assessor’s report shows all key issues including visual amenity and flooding have been addressed through conditions.
Council will now consider awarding a tender to build and operate the solar farm.