Countrywide Energy (CWE) is preparing to lodge an application for development approval to build a massive solar farm in the regional Victorian town of Wangaratta. The project would include a staggering 35,000 photovoltaic (PV) panels, that would generate enough electricity to power 2,500 homes.
The project is estimated to cost around $20M and would be located on a 15-hectare site. The land being used for this solar farm will be leased directly from the Rural City of Wangaratta (RCW) and is zoned for ‘Industrial’ use. It is located on the Wangaratta Eldorado Road, adjacent to the North Wangaratta Industrial Estate. The solar farm will be on the western side of the Hume Freeway.
There is potential for the solar farm to be doubled in size to 20 megawatts with possibly a Visitors’ Centre where tourists and students can earn about renewable energy, climate change and solar energy. Consideration will be given to providing a free electric car recharge facility for people travelling through the northeast or between Melbourne and Sydney along the Hume Freeway.
The solar farm life span is expected to be at least 25 years and the council has agreed to a lease of the land for this period, with an option to extension in the future. The construction phase will create around 90 jobs and once the solar farm is commissioned, there will be at least five new jobs to maintain the solar farm.
CWE’s Director responsible for project management, Leigh Newbery said,
“The planned solar farm will be at least 10 megawatts in size, which makes it the largest collaborative solar farm in the state”
Excess power that not consumed within the Industrial Estate, will be fed into the grid, and its customers will most likely be businesses in the North Wangaratta industrial estate and any other energy consumer who has access to the national electricity grid.
In terms of ownership, the Wangaratta Solar Farm would be owned by a combination of superannuation funds, green investment funds and other businesses that want to align themselves with projects that address global warming.
The developers say Wangaratta will benefit in a number of ways,
- It adds energy security to the area especially when demand for power is high, like on hot summer days
- It can provide energy pricing control for customers operating in the Industrial Estate and therefore help them manage costs over the long term to protect their future and the jobs they provide
- The development is on land leased from the council which has generated no interest from any other venture
- It will create new jobs and protect existing jobs because energy pricing will be secure and predictable
- Based on the success of the project, further renewable projects can be embraced within the municipality to deliver similar outcomes to other Wangaratta interests
- The project comes with no cost to Wangaratta and the council will earn income from renting the solar farm site over the life of the project