So­lar farm sup­port

The Free Press (Corowa) - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROBERT MUIR

The over­whelm­ing mood of at­ten­dees at the com­mu­nity in­for­ma­tion ses­sion in Mul­wala was of sup­port for a pro­posed $130 mil­lion so­lar farm on 378ha of agri­cul­tural land bor­der­ing Tocumwal Road and Sav­er­nake Road.

About 30 Mul­wala and district peo­ple at­tended the 75-minute ses­sion on April 9, which was led by ESCO Pa­cific’s head of de­vel­op­ment Al­li­son Hawke.

A lead­ing Aus­tralian de­vel­oper of util­ity so­lar farms, ESCO Pa­cific staff said they would meet with any per­son about the pro­posal on the Thomas prop­erty, in­clud­ing the neigh­bour­ing Jacques fam­ily who ex­pressed their dis­plea­sure at the pro­posal.

“I’d be hor­ri­fied at the thought of liv­ing ad­ja­cent to it - in a cen­tralised area, a beau­ti­ful area and in my front yard,” Mrs Sue Jacques said.

“We’ve been farm­ing here for 50 years. It would look like a power plant.” The util­ity scale so­lar farm would con­sist of up to 400,000 so­lar pan­els and, in the words of Ms Hawke, “would rep­re­sent a sig­nif­i­cant in­jec­tion” in the area.

Due to its size, NSW State Govern­ment must de­cide on the pro­posal, af­ter re­ceiv- ing any con­cerns from Fed­er­a­tion Coun­cil and would un­doubt­edly im­pose ap­pro­pri­ate plan­ning con­di­tions, in­clud­ing ex­ten­sive and ap­pro­pri­ate land­scap­ing, and traf­fic man­age­ment.

The prop­erty’s owner, Al­bert Thomas, was ap­proached some 12 months ago by var­i­ous com­pa­nies re­gard­ing a so­lar farm on his prop­erty. “We had at least seven of­fers,” he told the Free Press.

Like other farm­ers, Mr Thomas has ex­pe­ri­enced the “ins and outs of farm­ing with droughts and floods”. “We were made an of­fer and we thought, why not take it up?

“It’s ob­vi­ous power sta­tions are be­ing shut down in Aus­tralia, and Yar­ra­wonga and Mul­wala - es­pe­cially Yar­ra­wonga - has al­ways been short on elec­tric­ity. There’s no heavy in­dus­try.”

The pro­posed util­ity scale re­new­able en­ergy project of up to 140MW would gen­er­ate re­new­able en­ergy from the power of the sun. The power sta­tion would ex­port its elec­tric­ity via value ca­ble to the ad­ja­cent Mul­wala Sub­sta­tion.

Con­struc­tion of the so­lar farm would gen­er­ate an es­ti­mated 130 jobs over nine months. Upon com­ple­tion, there would be an es­ti­mated four full-time and eight part-time jobs cov­er­ing on­go­ing op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance.

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