Sunshine Coast upset by ARENA funding rejection for 15MW solar farm

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Sunshine Coast Council says ARENA decision not to back its 15MW solar farm ‘beyond belief’, in light of its support of the nearby Barcaldine solar farm.

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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.

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An artist’s impression of the Valdora solar park

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 mapElecnor 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.


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4 Comments
  1. howardpatr 3 years ago

    Will ARENA provide an explanation – the public deserves one.

    • michael 3 years ago

      Eligibility is clearly listed in the guidelines; at the Criterion A section 2.3.b.ii stating that you have to be incorporated or an eligible research institute…
      Maybe they just need a better consultant who had actually read the ARENA documents?

  2. Robert Comerford 3 years ago

    Peak stupid. ARENA should immediately change its criteria to suit.

  3. Ian 3 years ago

    Not all land is created equal, some is on the coast, some is inland and some is near isolated rural communities. Barcaldine is near Longreach, Valdora is on the Sunshine Coast. Home solar on the Sunshine Coast puts the duck into the duck curve, why would a Council compete with its own ratepayers for sunlight electricity? Would they not be better advised to use their excess funds for electric vehicles or battery storage. Green fields along the coast-line are precious and threatened by polluting housing developments, why add to the destruction with a 24 hectare solar farm? There are millions of hectares of dry land over the range, not even 50 km away and a lot of it right near high voltage transmission lines. Why not use that? There’s Kilcoy, Kingaroy, and Kilkivan, are they not part of the same community? There are plenty of public buildings, and shopping centres that have excess roof space, let the council sponsor that if they are so desperate to go green.

    Once the world has decarbonised energy production, attention will turn back to conservation of biodiversity. A world without plants, animals, forests, wild places is as bad or worse than one that is overheated. Australia’s East Coast has been shamelessly exploited by land developers with suburbs as far as the eye can see. When we wake up to the value of green spaces, there won’t be any .

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