A MAJOR solar farm project with substantial battery storage capability is planned for Wellington Shire.
The project, conservatively estimated to cost $1.28 billion and set to create about 1200 local jobs during the construction phase, will roll out across three sites.
While proponents are tight-lipped about exactly where the three project sites are located at this stage, they are on marginal dry farming land well away from local townships and within half an hour of Sale.
Local investors have provided the initial seed funding and hold an equity position in the development of the company.
Marathon Electrical chief executive Brett Singh, who is a local stakeholder, said the project could put Wellington Shire in a position to become "the renewable energy hub of Victoria".
He said if it went ahead, the Solis RE project would be transformative for Wellington Shire, producing reliable, efficient, low cost power combined with large battery storage to help address the current Victorian energy crisis.
A total 863 hectares (more than 2000 acres) of land has been secured for the massive project, in three parcels.
Proponents say all the land secured for project will proceed to be built on "in logical demand-driven stages".
Discussion with Wellington Shire Council regarding planning approval for the three sites has been positive, and the planning process will begin later this month.
Proponents say the construction and commissioning timelines are relatively short, and can be completed in stages.
This compares with eight to 10 years for the other large scale projects targeted for the region.
Site one will be connected into the National Energy Market at minimal cost, with the connection agreement and planning approval targeted for March next year.
The 'detailed response stage' has begun regarding this site, for a 50 megawatt solar farm and 50 megawatt hour batteries.
The investment in this first stage will be about $125 million.
Sites two and three are remotely located, and proponents say each offers a "substantial strategic advantage".
"They are both ideal properties to form the Gippsland Renewable Energy Park within the Australian Energy Market Operator Renewable Energy Zone framework and can accommodate solar, battery, gas and wind," proponents stated in a media release.
"Substantial augmentation costs will need to be incurred to connect into the National Electricity Market."
Sites two and three will each be developed into 250MW solar farms with 250MWh of batteries, making the battery storage capability an impressive five times larger than that in South Australia.
The total investment in these is an estimated $1.28 billion.
Solis RE is engaged in discussions with other stakeholders to assess the most effective solutions regarding transmission to a central distribution point from its sites.
It hopes the project will be operational within three to four years on the basis that works can be completed for transmission to central distribution at Morwell.
"The Solis RE projects provide a substantial benefit to the network in the short term and address the longer-term requirements of the Victorian government's commitment to introduce 50 renewable energy by 2030," proponents said in their media release.
"This project helps fill the gap that will be created from the phasing out of the existing coal fired power stations, which will be much sooner than initially planned."
Wellington Shire councillor Darren McCubbin said the Gippsland Energy Power Park was a "tremendous opportunity to create local jobs and green renewable energy".