The City of Fremantle is considering plans to develop a large-scale solar farm on a former landfill site in the city’s south.
A call for expressions of interest in the ~10MW project was issued by the council last year and received 10 submissions from solar companies.
US-based giant First Solar has been named as the city’s preferred choice for the project, with the company’s Asia Pacific regional manager Jack Curtis describing it as “ground-breaking” for the Australian solar industry.
It would, indeed, be an important win for Australia’s big solar industry, which has been brought to a standstill due to policy uncertainty surrounding the future of the large-scale component of the Renewable Energy Target (RET).
With little support from federal or even state governments, it has fallen to local government councils to roll-out utility-scale solar, providing a hedge against rising electricity prices for themselves and rate-payers.
Queensland’s Sunshine Coast Council has led the way on this, having already lodged a development application to transform 24 hectares of a former sugar plantation near Coolum into a 10-15MW solar farm.
In the works since July 2013, the proposed Valdora Solar Farm would be one of Australia’s largest big solar examples, generating enough power to meet at least half the council’s electricity needs for the next 30 years, and slashing its energy costs.
The planned Fremantle project, if it goes ahead, would not be far behind its Queensland cousin – in size – and according to Mayor Brad Pettit, would be a solid step towards a zero-carbon Fremantle.
“The Fremantle community has been a consistent leader in creating a more sustainable, low carbon Fremantle and this further enables that,” Pettit said.
Long before the plans for a solar farm were hatched, a community-based group launched a campaign for the development of a 12-turbine wind farm of up to 9.6MW to be located in the Port of Fremantle, where it could harness the City’s renowned wind resource, known as the “Fremantle Doctor”.
But while the Council has been supportive of this project – which has been declared commercially viable and not in need of subsidisation – the Fremantle Port Authority, which owns the land, has opposed the idea, citing operational or social risks to the port.
Mayor Pettit says the solar farm proposal – although still a few years away from regulatory approval – offers a great opportunity to locate a renewable energy source close to a major load centre and to engage directly with the progressive Fremantle community.
“Rather than buying our power from a distant coal-fired power station we will be able to buy power produced sustainably and probably more cheaply from around the corner in South Fremantle,” he said.