Maffra solar farm plan

THE renewable energy developers behind a $50 million solar farm on 60.7 hectares (150 acres) near Maffra say the project will provide a much-needed boost to the local economy and supplement the state’s dwindling energy supply.

ARP Australian Solar Pty Ltd is in the early stages of planning the solar farm, and has secured low-yielding grazing land on the outskirts of Maffra, on Brewers Hill Rd.

The development, if approved, is expected to provide 30 megawatts of power which will be sold to energy companies and go back into the grid.

The company is liaising with stakeholders, and will hold a drop-in session in Maffra in coming weeks to provide information and seek feedback on the proposal.

The company’s director, George Hughes, said the Maffra site was chosen because of its proximity to a sub-station, and the need for jobs and energy in the Gippsland region.

He said key objectives of the development proposal were to contribute to a “sustainable” future for the energy sector, retain agricultural land by facilitating grazing on site, and bringing energy and employment to local communities.

He said the development could create more than 100 local jobs, as well as some ongoing employment.

The developers are yet to submit an application to Wellington Shire Council, but are negotiating power purchase agreements.

But Mr Hughes said smaller, “more manageable” solar projects were the way of the future.

The solar farm would generate enough energy to power 7200 households, using an average of 4266 kilowatt hours per year.

“With the recent closure of Hazelwood, we think this would help secure the state’s energy future and investment in the local economy,” he said.

The proposal is for about 100,000 1.6 metre squared, solar photovoltaic panels which will be fixed onto aluminium supports in the ground.

The panels stand high enough off the ground to allow for livestock to graze.

Mr Hughes said the company’s aim was to reduce the environmental impact of the development, and only small amounts of concrete would be used, which can be removed at the end of the farm’s 30-year life span.

Maffra Business and Tourism Association president Marcus Stobie said he had heard about the solar farm and “cautiously” welcomed any proposal that would benefit the local economy.

“But we don’t know enough about this proposal, yet and what it could mean for Maffra,” he said.