Solar and battery "microgrid" approved for development by Gold Coast Council | RenewEconomy

Solar and battery “microgrid” approved for development by Gold Coast Council

Local government approves 33MW Gilberton solar and battery farm, with hopes it will attract high-tech, low carbon industries to the northern Gold Coast.

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A 33MW solar and battery project is set to go ahead in a flood-prone area in urban coastal south-east Queensland after the Gold Coast City council gave the project its vote of approval on Tuesday.

The Gilberton solar farm, which is being developed by renewables newcomer Ormed Investments, has been in the planning pipeline for several years now, with an original development application lodged back in 2017 for a project roughly three times the size.

A spokesperson for the project told RenewEconomy that its size had been pared back over the course of three years for a number of reasons, including concerns around visual amenity, with all parties settling on 33MW of PV and a battery energy storage system of between 4.5-5MW/5-10MWh.

The Gold Coast City Council on Tuesday waved through the project, which it claims numbers among the largest solar and battery projects in south-east Queensland – and the biggest to be built so close to an urban industrial area.

The solar farm is proposed for a footprint of 37.4 hectares at Gilberton, east of Yatala. According to a council report on the project, panels would be installed on roughly 2m high pylons, in keeping with the average flood depth of the site.

The location is all-important for the developers, who are hoping that – other than setting a precedent for under-utilised land in an area that can be subject to inundation from the Logan River – the solar and battery microgrid will serve as a beacon for new, low-carbon industry.

“The 33MW Gilberton solar farm will cost about $50 million to construct and will be a key to attracting high-tech and low carbon footprint industries to the Gold Coast,” said Brett Spicer, managing director of renewable energy consultancy firm Carbon Active and spokesperson for the site owners the Makan Group.

“The development of a microgrid based integrated energy system provides the basis to attract businesses that require highly secure, reliable and regulated power supplies,” Spicer added, noting that it would also generate green jobs for the region.

The solar and battery farm itself is expected to create around 40-50 jobs through construction, Spicer told RE.

Area councillor Mark Hammel said in comments earlier this month that there had also been interest in the project from the state’s university sector, with researchers keen to use it as a “playpen” for renewable generation in the region.

Cr Hammel also argued that other land owners in the area who had flood prone sites – including land formerly used for sugar cane farming – were watching the progress of the project, as a future possibility for their own land.

“It’s quite exciting. It’s very new. I don’t think this is the last time we will see this in the city,” Hammel said in comments quoted in the Gold Coast Bulletin.

For the project’s developers, the next steps include discussions around grid connections and infrastructure, including with network owner Energex and the Australian Energy Market Operator.

This would be followed by the selection of the solar and battery technology for the project, and of an engineering procurement and construction partner.

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