The big solar plans of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast Council were dealt a blow this week after it said an application for federal government funding via the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) was turned down.
Sunshine Coast Council has been working for years now on plans to become the first local government to build a utility-scale solar farm, lodging a development application in late 2014 to transform 24 hectares of a former sugar plantation near Coolum into a 15MW solar farm.
But the Council released a statement on Wednesday saying it had been advised by ARENA that its funding application for the Sunshine Coast Solar Farm had been deemed ineligible due to the fact that the local government group was not incorporated under the Corporations Act.
Gold Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson said ARENA’s decision had been made even more difficult to swallow in light of the Agency’s recent backing of a 25MW solar project in nearby Barcaldine, owned by international developers.
“Last week ARENA announced that they would be providing nearly $23 million in funding to the Spanish company Elecnor to build a solar farm at Barcaldine,” Jamieson said.
“With the addition of $20 million in debt finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Elecnor will receive more that 63 percent of the $69 million project finance from the Commonwealth Government while our local Council has not received one cent.
“Don’t get me wrong, we fully support the project at Barcaldine, but how a local Council representing Australian taxpayers can be deemed ineligible and a Spanish company be given $23 million in tax payer funds is beyond belief.”
Jamieson – who has called on Federal MPs to explain why ARENA funds are available for a company listed on the Spanish stock exchange but not to Sunshine Coast taxpayers – says his council’s solar plans will go ahead, despite the funding setback.
“By 2017, the 15MW solar farm, covering 24 hectares of a 49 hectare site at Valdora will offset 100 per cent of the organisation’s electricity consumption across all its facilities and operations, with solar energy going back into the grid,” he said.
“The solar farm is estimated to save the Council millions of dollars over a 30-year period based on today’s electricity costs, which are anticipated to increase substantially in the future.