Congupna solar farm / Design and Development Guidelines

The Congupna solar farm has been approved for the Shepparton area and will produce 30MW of energy – this is enough to power 10,000 homes in the region.

Congupna solar farm

Minister for Planning Richard Wynne announced the successful Congupna solar farm approval this morning. 

According to Minister Wynne the farm will create over 100 solar jobs for the region: 

“The Congupna solar farm will create more than 100 new jobs and produce 30 megawatts of new, clean energy – helping to drive down energy prices.”

 “We’re working with industry and community to make sure solar farm developments deliver the right outcomes for communities, the environment and jobs” he continued.

The Tallygaroopna, Lemnos and Tatura East solar farm applications has been deferred until further strategic work on Goulburn Murray Irrigation District is completed.

As per the official press release, the Labor Government in Victoria will invest over $1.3b to put solar panels, hot water, and batters in 720,000 homes, as part of their Solar Homes Program.

Minister for Environment, Energy and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio was equally impressed by the project, discussing how they will be able to affect climate change and electricity prices:

“These new guidelines will provide more certainty to the community, and more confidence to invest in major solar farms like the one at Congupna.”

 “We’re creating jobs, driving down power prices and combatting climate change with the biggest investment in renewable energy in Victoria’s history” Minister D’Ambrosio said.

According to Shepparton News, Mr Wynne’s office stressed in a press release that the Congupna facility “will be built on non-irrigated agricultural land” and is projected to create almost $40 million in capital expenditure.

Solar Energy Facilities – Design and Development Guidelines

At the same time, Minister Wynne released a draft version of the design and development guidelines for solar energy facilities. They’ll help councils, developers, and communities ensure they build solar farms suitable for everybody. Although we’ve seen many successful large-scale solar farm rollouts in Australia, solar farm opposition is still a bit of an issue for some developments. Hopefully these guidelines help clear up what is and isn’t suitable for large-scale solar! 

 

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Solar Backpackers – Solar jobs not going to locals?

The dozens of solar farms in various stages of construction or approval in Queensland are being flooded with ‘solar backpackers’ – with local staff being eschewed due to the perception of being too difficult to manage. This has led to a situation where ‘solar backpackers’ are being employed instead of local staff as it’s easier for the companies. 

Solar Backpackers and Solar Jobs

According to the ABC, in the last fortnight Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and the Electrical Safety Office conducted inspections across many of Queensland’s regional solar farms. 30 Notices were issued to various companies – this includes 23 breaches of the Work Health and Safety Act and seven breaches of the Electrical Safety Act.

Industrial Minister Grace Grace discussed the issues and advised that a new Code of Practice will be released by the end of the year:

“With the construction of solar and wind farms expanding throughout Queensland, we must ensure electrical safety is paramount,” she said.

“While there is a robust system in place to ensure the highest levels of safety, we are far from complacent and we want to ensure world’s best practice in this area.

“Following the completion of the solar code, a similar process will be undertaken to develop a separate code of practice for wind farms,” she said.

The Australian Border Force have also become involved, but haven’t confirmed any instances of ‘illegal workers’ or ‘worker exploitation’:

“The Australian Government is committed to ensuring that Australian workers have priority and that foreign workers are a supplement to, and not a substitute for, Australians,” an ABF spokesperson said.

“The Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visa allows ‘backpackers’ to stay and holiday in Australia for up to 12 months, work in Australia for up to six months with each employer, study for up to four months and leave and re-enter Australia any number of times while the visa is valid.

“WHM visa holders can undertake any kind of work with any employer during their stay in Australia as long as they do not work more than six months with that employer.”

List of Solar Farms in Queensland (Information from abc.net.au)

Company Solar Farm Area Size Owner Solar Jobs Created
Biosar Energy Childers Bundaberg 120MW Elliott 200
Biosar Energy Susan River Fraser Coast 100MW Elliott 300
Biosar Energy Oakey Solar Farm Stage 2 Toowoomba 70MW Canadian Solar 200
Downer Group Ross River Solar Farm Townville 148MW Palisade Unknown
Downer Group Clare Solar Farm Burdekin 100 MW FRV Unknown
Downer Group Sunshine coast Solar Farm Sunshine Coast 15MW Sunshine Coast City Council Unknown
Acciona Lilyvale Solar Farm Central Highlands 100MW Fotowatio Renewable Ventures Unknown
CIMIC Group & UGL Limited Collinsville Solar Project Whitsunday 42.5MW Ratch Australia 120 at peak
RCR Tomlinson Darling Downs Solar Farm Western Downs 110MW APA Group 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Daydream Solar Farm Whitsunday 180MW Edify Energy 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Hayman Solar Farm Whitsunday 60MW Edify Energy 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Longreach Solar Farm Longreach 15MW Canadian Solar 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Oakey Solar Farm Stage 1 Toowoomba 25MW Canadian Solar 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Sun Metals Solar Farm Stage 1 Townsville 124MW Sun metals Corp 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Emerald Solar Park Central Highlands 72MW Renewable Energy Systems 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Haughton Burdekin 500MW Pacific Hydro 3,000 across eight projects
Bouygues Construction Australia Hamilton Solar Farm Whitsunday 69MW Edify Energy 325
Tranex Whitsunday Solar Farm Whitsunday 69MW Edify Energy Approx. 60
Beon Energy Hughenden Solar Farm Flinders 20MW BayWa r.e 100
Windlab and Erus Energy Kennedy Energy Park Flinders 60MW Windlab Approx. 130 to 140
Yarranlea Yarranlea Solar Farm Toowoomba 121MW Risen Energy 200 proposed positions
Adani Rugby Run Solar Farm Stage 1 Isaac Region 65MW Adani Renewables 150 proposed jobs
 

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RCR Tomlinson Solar Farm Writedowns

Australian solar contracting company RCR Tomlinson has taken a $57m write down on the Daydream solar farm and the Hayman solar farm, which are owned by Edify Energy and to be installed in North Queensland.

RCR Tomlinson Solar Farm Writedown

We reported earlieir this year on the Hayman and Daydream solar farms and how First Solar will be handling the installation for Edify – at that time everything looked rosy but it appears that a couple of major factors have led to cost and time delays. Edify have cited “external” delays, bad weather, and local issues like poor ground quality.  Also being blamed are the increasingly stricter requirements being imposed by the Australian Energy Market Operator which are affecting solar farms Australia-wide. 

RCR Tomlinison Daydream solar farm in Collinsville, Queensland.
RCR Tomlinson -Daydream solar farm in Collinsville, Queensland. (source: thewest.com.au)

As of last year, RCR have over half a Gigawatt of large-scale solar projects in their order book and over a Gigawatt currently being developed or progressed under early contractor involvement processes, according RCR Managing Director & CEO, Dr Paul Dalgleish (who has since left RCR). As a result of the writedown RCR are now attempting to raise $100m from investors and have had to offer a significant discount on RCR shares on a one-for-1.65 basis at $1 each. This represents a ~65% discount on the stock’s last trade price ($2.80).

According to RenewEconomy, Tomlinson has written down $57 million on the $315 million contract values for both the 150MW Daydream and the 50MW Hayman solar farms owned by Edify Energy. They’re both located in North Queensland and both nearing completion.

A statement to shareholders noted that: 

“These project-specific issues required the Company to continuously revise its execution methodologies to mitigate delays, leading to increases in subcontractor costs (both people and plant) and logistics cost overruns.

“As a result of these cost overruns that arose over the life of the Project, RCR has realised cumulative write- downs of $57 million from the tendered margin on the Project.”

Some bad news for solar farms in Australia but we have no doubt that these projects will end up completed and can start making their investments back. We’ll be watching closely how the AEMO’s ongoing changes to legislation affects the many other solar farms currently in various stages of completion/operation. 

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Bookaar Solar Farm | Timeline, Opposition & More

The $150m, 200MW Bookaar Solar Farm in Victoria is set to start construction in July next year, if local residents trying to scupper the plans don’t have their way.

Bookaar Solar Farm

Bookaar Solar Farm Location
Bookaar Solar Farm Location (source: Google Maps)

The 200MW Bookaar Solar Farm will feature around 700,000 solar panels, according to the ABC. It is located 10 km to the north of Camperdown, in South West Victoria. It’s being developed by Bookaar Renewables Pty Ltd (a partnership between the landowners and Infinergy Pacific)

According to the official website, there are six main reasons they chose that particular location:

  • Good degree of flat land within the land holding.
  • Good solar resource.
  • Simple grid connection options onsite, with capacity on the lines for the required generation size.
  • Extensive farming land.
  • Good transportation links and site access.
  • Low visual impact – they are hoping to add to existing screening by planting a vegetation screen around the perimeter of the solar farm so neighbour views aren’t as obstructed.

During the construction period it is estimated that the project could provide jobs for up to 150 workers over the course of a year and more.  Following this, 12 full time local jobs will be created over the 30 year operational period of the project. 

The project’s Planning Application and Assessments will be submitted to the Corangamite Shire Council in May 2018.  If approved, construction will begin in late 2019 and be completed by late 2019 or early 2020. 

“The development would be operational for 30 years, after which it would be decommissioned and the site returned to its pre-development status,” the application to council states.

With that said, there is still some solar farm opposition due to its planned size.

Bookaar Solar Farm Opposition

The farm is estimated to be around 6 square kilometres in size, in comparison to Camperdown (where the farm will be built near) which is only 4 square kilometres. As a result, some of the residents are a little uneasy about the impact this farm may have on their investments/lives.

Over 30 people turned up to a meeting a fortnight ago where the Boookaar Community Action Group discussed the ‘immense’ size of the project. 

“The clincher is that it’s 605 hectares, over 1500 acres, just by sheer size it’s an immense problem,” Chair of the group Andrew Duynhoven told the meeting.

“The actual solar farm is the size of Camperdown, plus a quarter.

“It’s massive. It’ll probably be the biggest solar farm application in Australia at the moment.”

Dynhoven elaborated that he is pro-solar but the ‘sheer scale’ of the farm is making them nervous:

“I’m not against solar. I’d love to have solar on the dairy, and in the near future that will occur, but I’m against the sheer scale of this.”

Given the small size of Camperdown and the big solar farm, it is more understandable than most solar farm NIMBY opposition. The residents are also concerned about glint, glare, and the classic: using ‘prime agricultural land’ to build a solar farm. 

A public information meeting will be held at the Camperdown botanic gardens at 1pm on Sunday for anyone interested in following this along. Further discussion about the farm can be found on The Standard‘s website. 

 

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Darling Downs Solar Update | Jobs, Farms & More

Darling Downs solar is helping the area by providing jobs to locals and kickstarting the economy – with one council already approving $6b worth of wind and solar projects. There’s now a ‘buzz’ around the Darling Downs and renewable energy – let’s take a look at what they have in the pipeline!

Darling Downs Solar 

Darling Downs Solar Farm
Darling Downs Solar Farm (source: Origin Energy)

“We’ve got $1.2 billion of that under construction now, and that’s the exciting thing, this isn’t just about approvals, this is about action to deliver renewable energies to this region,” Western Downs Regional Council mayor Paul McVeigh said in comments to the ABC

“And we know there are another three [solar farms] in the pipeline.”

In Warwick, the 154,000 megawatt-hour generating UQ / Warwick Solar Farm is to be installed on ‘good agricultural land’ has had to wage a battle against NIMBY detractors. Mayor Tracy Dobie defended her decision (she had the deciding vote to allow the farm DA):

“This region is about growth and development and we can sit here and go poor slowly or we can progress our region and the more development we can get in our region the more jobs,” Ms Dobie said.

“The more progress we can make, the better off we are.”

Mayor Dobie continued to discuss the project and what she sees the future of renewable energy in the Darling Downs as looking like:

“This is a turning point in our region to show we are moving forward, that we are looking to the future, and there is nothing more evident than that than renewable energy.

“There’s a buzz about the Darling Downs, this is a great place to be and great time to be here.”

Toowoomba Solar

There’s been an amazing amount of renewable energy movement in Toowoomba – with the billion dollar project at Bulli Creek approved by the Tooowoomba Council. This will be built by Solar Choice over a 10 year staggered period. 

Toowoomba mayor Paul Antonio spoke about the concerns some residents may have and why he’s happy to continue approving solar farms:

“I guess we have to be a bit cautious of the type of land we put it on, but in saying that, the land is restorable, its not going to be destroyed in any mining effort or anything like that, and in 20, 30, 40 years’ time that land will be back to full production.”

Have a look at the short video below from ABC Landline which was part of an article about using ‘good farmland’ for solar farms. 

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