Australian solar farm developer ESCO Pacific says it has received planning consent for the development of a 135MW solar farm at Ross River near Townsville.
The project, to be sited on a disused mango plantation, was approved by the Townsville City Council recently, but still needs finance to go ahead.
ESCO Pacific managing director and founder Steve Rademaker said the project will deliver considerable benefits of renewable energy generation, create jobs and help develop the necessary skills in what will be a growth industry for the region.
“The Townsville City Council has shown great vision in seeing the considerable opportunity and benefits associated with utility scale solar,” he said in a statement.
“We have worked closely with the Council and the local community to address the limited number of concerns raised by local residents.
Those concerns from local residents included the potential impact on pacemakers by the “electro-magnetic” waves from solar panels. But solar installations are common on retirement homes and hospitals, and no issues have been reported.
Esco says the Ross River is the first of a number of similar projects that we intend to develop over the coming years. Esco says it has a pipeline of around 500MW of large scale solar projects.
Rademaker says the company is hopeful of securing an off take agreement “shortly” that will enable the company move forward with financing and then construction. He hopes that begins in first quarter next year. He says costs have come down significantly, with large scale construction costs now at $1.50/watt.
Queensland is predicted to become a centre for such projects, because of high wholesale prices, its excellent solar region, and the state government push to source half of its electricity needs from renewables by 2030. Currently, more than 85 per cent comes from coal generation, and there is little large scale renewable generation.
Townsville was selected as the ideal location for the solar farm because of the high solar irradiance in the region, and its average 320 days of sunshine annually. The site is in close proximity to the grid connection point at the Ross Bulk Supply Substation and is free from environmental constraints.
The solar farm will cover an area of 202 hectares and will comprise 450,000 photovoltaic modules or ‘solar panels’. The technology is identical to the millions of solar panels installed across residential roof tops across Australia. The solar panels will be installed on ground- mounted frames that will slowly track the daily horizontal movement of the sun.
The $250m project is expected to take 12 months to build, with work to commence in early 2017.