Solar boom

THE district's latest solar power project is expected to be built at a cost of $45.5 million.

A planning application has been approved for the development of the solar farm on a property near Cohuna.

Gannawarra Shire Council has issued a Notice of Decision to Grant a Permit to Grey Box Energy Field Pty Ltd for use and development of the land adjacent to the Kerang-Leitchville Road at Horfield for a renewable energy facility subject to the 25 conditions.

Building permits have already been issued by council for five projects with a combined construction value of $870 million.

The Horfield project is one of a further four valued at a collective $420 million that are in the planning or preparation stage.

The site has an approximate area of 128 hectares. Two solar panel arrays will cover about 82 hectares at the north and south ends and the remaining central area will be retained for farming.

Grey Box Energy Field Pty Ltd proposes to construct a 35 DC [direct current] Megawatt solar farm which will generate 30 Megawatts AC [alternating power] of power and will be comprised of two large solar array areas in the north and south sections of the subject land.

Generated power will be directed to an adjacent zone electricity sub-station and would generate enough electricity to power 8000 homes.

The site fronts the Kerang-Leitchville Road, opposite Cohuna-Leitchville Road, running north to south to Horfield School Road.

Subject to formal planning and building permit approval, the project is scheduled to be constructed from March next year and be operational by January 2019.

Shire planning and regulatory services manager, Peter Bergman told council that the application was advertised to surrounding property owners and occupiers and two objections were received.

He said that planning conditions would overcome most points of objection.

This latest project is in line with council's strategy to promote and encourage the establishment of a solar electricity generation industry in the municipality, including electricity generation on 'solar farms', the manufacture of components and research into solar applications.

Shire economic development manager, Roger Griffiths, who has spearheaded council's aggressive targeted campaign to attract renewable energy projects, said that these projects will add diversity to the shire economy and employment during the construction phase will involve between 80 and 200 new jobs per project and also permanent ongoing positions of more than 20 when all projects are completed.

"It increases the shire's investment profile and brings new investors to the area and substantial rates revenue will be generated through the development of these projects," he said.

"Also business leverage will be a great benefit to all the businesses throughout the shire. The ability to supply goods and services to the large scale solar projects will allow other businesses to grow and flourish in the area."

Mr Griffiths said that local projects will help both Victoria and the nation achieve clean energy targets for the future.

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