A 70MW solar and battery project proposed to help fill the gap left by Victoria’s retiring coal-fired power stations has applied for development approval from the state government.
The Morwell Solar Farm, which is being developed by ARP Australian Solar, proposes to install 70MW of solar and a between 5-30MW battery storage system (storage duration unspecified) in between the Latrobe Valley towns of Morwell and Churchill – the heart of Victoria’s coal country.
The site proposed for the roughly $105 million project is comprised of two diagonally adjacent properties on either side of Tramway Road, just a stone’s throw from the site of the retired Hazelwood Power Station, which is being demolished by its owner, Engie.
In documents submitted to Victoria’s department of planning, ARP director George Hughes said “filling the void” left by decommissioned power stations was one of the main reasons for choosing the site.
“Latrobe Valley’s legacy of coal-fired power generation has left an abundance of grid connection infrastructure in the district,” Hughes said.
“The Latrobe Valley area has played a key role in Victoria’s power generation and ARP wish to continue this with producing modern, clean, green renewable power.”
ARP is not the only renewables develop to have had this thought. OSMI Australia is proposing to build a 300MW wind farm overlooking the site of the Hazelwood coal plant, on plantation land spanning the Latrobe City, Baw Baw Shire and South Gippsland Shire Councils.
And just last month major gen-tailer AGL Energy revealed it was considering installing a floating solar array at the Loy Yang A brown coal generator and a pilot plant of new electrothermal solar storage technology at the same site, as part of its new energy strategy.
Not all renewables projects have been welcome in the region, however. The 106MW Bald Hills wind farm, completed in Victoria’s South Gippsland region, last year became the subject of Australia’s first group legal action alleging a link between turbine noise and health impacts. You can read about how that turned out here.
Solar has traditionally been less problematic than wind in terms of gaining public approval, although a booming market means solar developers have been put on notice to pay careful attention to social licence and community consultation.
According to Hughes, plans for the Morwell solar farm have been well received by locals, so far, with public support for renewable observed to have grown over the two years since a 2018 community consultation event.
At a more recent community event, held in March of 2020, ARP said there was a great deal of interest in the details of the project, its construction and future employment opportunities.
Construction of the project, should it go ahead, is expected to create 100 jobs over the course of its development and, once complete, generate enough electricity to power 23,000 standard Victorian households.
The company has also noted that the agricultural land being proposed for the solar project could continue to be used for sheep grazing, post installation.