A proposed $130 million solar farm with 400,000 panels proposed on the outskirts of Mulwala is before Federation Council.
The proposed utility scale renewable energy project of up to 140 megawatt (MW) would generate renewable energy from the power of the sun on a property bordering Tocumwal Road and Savernake Road Mulwala.
Federation Council’s Director Infrastructure and Environment Peter Gall said council can comment but don’t run the process.
“The size of this solar farm is of a scale considered ‘State Significant Development’ and as such the NSW Department of Planning will determine the application,” he said at council’s monthly meeting on December 19.
It’s a 140MW solar farm, that may include battery storage, to be constructed on 270ha of farmland. The site is generally on a five-year rotation of cropping and sheep grazing.
The facility would comprise up to 400,000 ground-mounted solar panels on tracking systems. The capital investment value of the project is estimated at $130 million, making it a State Significant Development. A councillor commented: “It’s bigger than Ben Hur.”
According to Melbourne-based firm ESCO Pacific, the power station would export its electricity via a high value cable for the nearby Mulwala Substation.
If the go-ahead is given, the construction stage would generate an estimated 130 jobs over nine months. Construction would not start before 2019.
Upon completion, there would be an expected four full-time and eight part-time workers for ongoing operation and maintenance.
It will involve Federation Council commenting to the NSW Government regarding any concerns as part of an Environmental Impact Assessment.
Community consultation is planned by council at the end of this summer in respect of the proposal
Council needs to know if there are any concerns with the proposal prior to lodgement of a development application with the NSW Department of Planning.
At its December meeting, Federation Council resolved to provide comment in respect of any concerns with the proposal to the NSW Department of Planning and ESCO Pacific as part of the Environmental Impact Statement (E.I.S.), on the motion of Crs Gail Law and Norm Wales. Preparation of the E.I.S. is planned to start early February.
Mulwala-based Federation councillor Bronwyn Thomas declared a pecuniary interest in the council agenda item due to a Thomas relation owning the property.
Surrounding land uses to the proposed development are rural, the Industrial Estate and large lot residential. A consultant is preparing the E.I.S. and is seeking comment from council, especially if there are any concerns.
Cr Fred Longmire enquired about the development’s effect on the future development of Mulwala, whether opportunities exist to “rejig the Local environment Plan (LEP), and if there was any concern with the LEP”.
“Yes, we’ve had some discussions. It could limit development,” Mr Gall responded. “Future development of Mulwala is what we can achieve around the lake and what we can achieve off the land. But there have been no full discussions yet.”
ESCO Pacific said Mulwala had been chosen because of the relatively high solar irradiance in the region and the capacity of the essential energy electricity network to transmit the power generated by the project
Other parties interested in developing a solar farm on the outskirts of Corowa have contacted council.
Council is not aware of any existing solar farms operating in the Federation Council area.