- Last updated:
- 26 May 2017
The last of 57,960 panels has been installed at the Sunshine Coast Solar Farm in Valdora, and is on track to be operational by mid-2017.
Council will become Australia’s first local government to offset more than 100 percent of its electricity consumption across all its facilities and operations. This includes administration buildings, aquatic centres, community and performance venues, as well as holiday parks, libraries, art galleries and sporting facilities.
The solar farm will provide $22 million in savings, after costs, over a 30-year period based on today’s electricity costs, which are anticipated to increase substantially in the future.
Council is striving to become Australia’s most sustainable region and the Sunshine Coast Solar Farm is part of it's plan to achieve that vision.
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- New intersection: Work on a new road intersection is now complete, which provides safer access into the solar farm site and improve traffic flows along Yandina-Coolum Road.
- Installation update: All 57,960 solar panels are now installed. Work will continue on wiring the network of panels to the Energex switch-yard ensuring the electricity generated by the 57,000 panels can be injected into the power lines safely and within specific limits dictated by the National Electricity Rules.
- Commissioning: With construction well advanced the commissioning phase of the project has begun. Commissioning is when all the various components in the solar farm are tested to make sure they are operating as they were designed to do.
- Buffer planting works: Council will plant more than 36,000 trees to create a 10 metre green buffer around the Solar Farm once the commissioning of the solar farm is completed.
The peak of the construction phase of the solar farm has seen 60-100 employees on the solar farm site on any one day.
Once the solar farm is operational, maintenance will be undertaken by the solar contractor.
Downer and council developed a local industry participation plan to ensure that local businesses and workers were appropriately supported to become involved with the project.
Council hopes to leverage the solar farm to develop a ‘Clean Tech’ hub in the region. This hub provides opportunity to further develop this industry sector, encourage increased external investment in the region, and help drive increased and sustainable employment.
The Sunshine Coast Solar Farm:
- will see council proactively take control of its electricity supply to combat rising electricity costs, which were on average 14% higher in Queensland last financial year
- provide council facilities and operations with renewable electricity and help the Sunshine Coast region transition to clean energy economy
- complement the Sunshine Coast’s 40,000 solar PV rooftops and contribute to the reduction of Australia’s carbon emissions
- deliver $22 million in savings (after costs) for ratepayers from council’s lower electricity costs over the next 30 years.
A 15 megawatt solar farm is being built on 24 hectares of a 49 hectare site at 909 Yandina-Coolum Road, Valdora.
It will be the fifth or sixth largest solar farm in Australia when it is commissioned. At its peak, the solar farm will generate 15,000 kilowatts of electricity from the sun into the Energex network. The electricity generated over one year is enough to power about 5000 homes.
During construction, Downer will install more than 57,000 PV (photovoltaic) modules (solar panels), close to 1500 support structures, and six inverter stations as well as a number of civil and structural works. This includes a control room, road intersection, and medium voltage (MV) underground lines.
36,000 trees will also be planted to create a 10m wide green buffer area along the site’s frontage with the road, and along its southern and western boundaries.
Cost: $50.4 million
Impact on ratepayers: No ongoing net cost to ratepayers as the revenue generated by the project will offset any associated costs to build and maintain the farm
Construction: Downer Utilities Australia Pty Ltd will build the solar farm and Energex will build the infrastructure to connect the solar farm to the distribution network.
Energy retailer: Diamond Energy
Council has developed a business case for the solar farm project[640KB] that was independently reviewed by an investment bank and a business advisory firm with experience in the commercialisation of renewable energy technology.
In 2014, council purchased the site at Valdora and lodged a Material Change of Use Development Application which was formally approved in 2015.
In 2016, contract negotiations were finalised and construction began mid year.
The project aligns with a range of council policy documents which all underwent extensive community consultation, including input from external expert reference groups:
- Economic Development Strategy
- Climate Change and Peak Oil Strategy
- Energy Transition Plan which specifically includes facilitating large-scale clean energy production and solar power stations as a key action.
Contracts to design, build, operate and maintain the solar farm have been signed between council and Downer Utilities Australia Pty Ltd.
The key components of the solar farm will be supplied by 'tier 1' manufacturers:
- Solar panels manufactured by Trina Solar;
- Centralised inverters manufactured by SMA;
- Panel racking manufactured by Schletter.
Downer Utilities Australia has prepared a “Local Industry Participation Plan” for the project which sought to maximise participation by local sub-contractors and the sourcing of local materials.
In 2014, Council engaged “Diamond Energy” as its electricity retailer to buy and sell electricity on Council’s behalf in the wholesale electricity market. In choosing Diamond Energy, Council was aware that:
- Diamond Energy has consistently been independently ranked one of the “greenest” electricity retailer’s in Australia
- Diamond Energy proactively supports the implementation of new renewable energy projects in Australia and generates all of their electricity from renewable sources
- Diamond Energy does not invest in or undertake coal seam gas activities and does not support electricity generation from the burning of native forest material.
The project will be located at 909 Yandina-Coolum Road in the locality of Valdora. The solar farm will be constructed on 24 hectares of a 49 hectare site. The characteristics of the site that favour a solar farm are the site:
- is zoned as a suitable site for a renewable energy facility in the Sunshine Coast Planning Scheme 2014 and has received development approval
- is adjacent to Energex’s 33kV power line which is capable of receiving the solar farm’s power output
- is flat and large enough to develop a scale of solar farm which can generate a reliable output to match council’s annual power needs
- is flood prone and presents an engineering challenge which has been met by Downer Utilities Australia. Development approval stipulates that the majority of the solar farm’s components be located at, or above, a height of 3.74m AHD
- has the optimum solar perspective with no shading, is located away from urban areas and provides limited impacts on the surrounding rural community.
The following provides more information on the Sunshine Coast Solar Farm Project:
- Sunshine Coast Solar Farm Project: Business Case Summary
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Fast facts
- Artist's impression
For more information, please email council's Solar Farm Project Team email@example.com.