Sunshine Coast Council on Monday formally opened its 15MW Valdora solar farm to become the first council in Australia to complete its own large scale solar plant, with the prospect of saving more than $20 million in electricity costs.
The solar farm – more than four years in the making (we first reported on the idea here in 2013) – will supply the equivalent of all council’s electricity needs, lock in costs and deliver significant savings over the 30 year life of the plant.
Mayor Mark Jamieson said the council would be the first in Australia to offset 100 per cent of its electricity consumption with energy from a renewable source, and it expected to make $22 million in savings after all costs.
“All power consumed at all of council’s facilities, including our administration buildings, aquatic centres, community and performance venues, as well as holiday parks, libraries, art galleries and sporting facilities,will be offset with energy from a renewable source thanks to this nation-leading project,” Jamieson said.
The Sunshine Coast council area already has 40,000 homes and businesses with rooftop solar, meaning that the new power plant takes total capacity in the council area to 140MW.
Jamieson said the initiative had sparked major interest and 15 councils around Australia have already inquired about how they can follow in our footsteps.
“What’s more, is that this project has been developed and delivered solely by our council, without any assistance from either the Federal or State governments, unlike many other solar farms being developed in Australia,” he said.
“Both the State and Federal governments talk about achieving renewable energy targets – our council is getting on with and achieving ours – and well ahead of anyone else.”
The Valdora solar farm is the second biggest to be completed in Queensland (after Barcaldine), although another half a dozen bigger plants are also under construction and another dozen or so are about to begin construction.
“Our solar farm is the first, and will be the largest, to connect to the electricity grid in South East Queensland. It is also the first solar farm in Australia to operate at 1500 volts DC which enables it to operate more efficiently,” the council said.
The solar farm – located on an old sugar farm – was built by Downer Group, while a new retail contract has been struck with Diamond Energy.
“Over the past three years, Diamond Energy has supported council’s enthusiastic staff, through planning, implementation and now operation,” Diamond Energy managing director Tony Sennitt said.
Steven Lynch, the head of the local area for network company Energex said the company say such grid scale Projects like this as a key part of our low-carbon future.
Sunshine Coast Council’s Development and Innovation Portfolio Councillor Stephen Robinson said the solar farm would further help the region transition to a clean and low carbon economy.
“At any one time during construction, up to 100 people were employed on site by the lead contractor, Downer Utilities, and 10 local companies were sub-contracted to complete on-site work – from earthworks to drilling, fencing and construction.
“I’d also like to acknowledge the council staff who have been passionately committed to seeing this innovative project through to completion.”
This article was originally published on RenewEconomy’s sister site, One Step Off The Grid, which focuses on customer experience with distributed generation. To sign up to One Step’s free weekly newsletter, please click here.