Tasmania is one step closer to building what will be the Apple Isle’s largest solar farm, after the Latrobe Council gave the green light to a 12.5MW project proposed for the state’s north west.
In a special meeting on Monday, the council granted planning approval for the project, which is proposed for development on grazing land in the small town of Wesley Vale, adjacent to an existing substation.
The solar farm – which also has a provision for a “storage cubicle” – is one of two being developed in Tasmania by Australian renewables developer Epuron.
The other, a smaller 5MW project – which will instead grab the title of Tasmania’s first utility-scale solar farm – is planned for George Town in the north east, and has also just gained council approval.
The company is also in the process of developing its first Tasmanian wind farm, a 40MW project north-west of Stanley, which it says could have “the highest energy yield per turbine in Australia.”
In a statement on Monday, Epuron said it was excited to see the Wesley Vale Solar Farm enter the next phase of development, with discussions underway to finalise grid connection, and construction set to begin in 2019.
The company said the solar farm – “located on the sunny northern coast of Tasmania” – would supply enough renewable energy to the grid to power 2,900 homes, and would “strengthen and diversify Tasmania’s energy mix,” alongside its hydro-electric backbone.
“We’re very excited to see our project progress to this stage, we really appreciate the efforts and support from council and from the local community, and we are keen to continue to foster this relationship and to be a good neighbour,” said project officer Elyse Wise, in comments to RE.
Wise said the focus on building smaller solar projects in Tasmania was a “new limb” for Epuron, which is perhaps better known for its bigger ventures, including what stands to be Australia’s largest wind farm – a 1,000MW project slated for the Upper Hunter region of NSW.
“(Tasmania’s) a very interesting state,” Wise told RE. “It has a cold climate, where solar power can work incredibly well.
“It’s also a new area to break into, and a new type of project for us.
“Developing smaller solar projects is a new limb for our company. We’re looking at owning and operating (these smaller projects) as a new stream (for the business),” she said.
For the Latrobe Council – which gave the $20 million project its unanimous support on Monday night, with a number of conditions – the hope is that this solar farm would pave the way for more like it.
“I am pleased that the decision has been made and the approval has been conditioned to alleviate concerns by councillors, but also to some extent those expressed by … adjacent property owners,” Latrobe Mayor Peter Freshnet said in comments to the Burnie Advocate.
“I hope it will act as a beacon for future farms of this type. We are really keen to get this one right, and maximise the capture of solar energy and minimise the impact on neighbours.”
In April, ABC News reported that the solar farm had raised concerns from at least one of its neighbours, who worried about the project’s impact on property values, and on the quality of the farmland.