MOREE will host one of Australia’s largest solar energy projects and yesterday mayor Katrina Humphries couldn’t get the smile off her face.
The company behind the multi-million dollar development, Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV), has confirmed finance for the project has been finalised and construction will begin immediately.
Cr Humphries was over the moon yesterday, telling The Leader it was the boost the area needed.
“This is fantastic – such good news,” she said.
“There’s been a lot of heartache along the way, it has not been easy ... but finally the community, which has had its fingers crossed all the way along, can uncross them and celebrate.”
The 70mW project has been about three years in the making and suffered a major setback in 2012 when government funding was revoked.
Moree Plains Shire Council and the proponents refused to give up on it though, Cr Humphries saying at the time of the failure that “it isn’t done and dusted by any means”.
The funding lifeline soon came in the shape of several federal renewable energy agencies, and yesterday it was confirmed the project would proceed with a grant of
$101.7 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and a loan of $47 million from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).
The final hurdle was cleared when FRV and partner Pacific Hydro secured a deal to supply energy to the national electricity grid.
The $164 million farm will be built about 10km south of the town and when completed will produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of nearly 15,000 homes.
It will also be the first large-scale solar plant in Australia to use a single-axis horizontal tracking system, whereby panels follow the sun across the sky to capture sunlight and maximise power output.
Cr Humphries said it was a “great vote of confidence” in the area and welcomed the more than 100 jobs it’s expected to create during the construction phase.
“This is a massive expenditure for this shire and is, I believe, the biggest development, outside of the farming industry, that we’ve seen,” she said.
“We’ve been waiting eagerly for this for quite some time and it’s very exciting.”
The Moree solar farm is the sixth large-scale project of its kind to go ahead in NSW in an 18-month period and is expected to make the state the nation’s largest solar generator.
AGL Energy is also building two large solar projects in western NSW – a 102MW plant at Nyngan and a 53MW plant at Broken Hill.
It comes, too, as the federal government tries to axe the CEFC and ARENA, although it has yet to secure the support it needs from the senate.