Western Australia’s City of Fremantle has become the latest local government group in Australia to proposed installing a large-scale solar farm on council land, to reduce their carbon footprint and hedge against rising electricity prices for themselves and rate-payers.
Reports emerged this week that the Fremantle Council was considering plans to develop an up to 10MW solar array on a former landfill site in the city’s south.
A call for expressions of interest in the project was issued by the council last year and received 10 submissions from solar companies.
US-based giant First Solar has been named as the city’s preferred choice for the project, with the company’s Asia Pacific regional manager Jack Curtis describing it as “ground-breaking” for the Australian solar industry.
It would be an important win for Australia’s big solar industry, which has been brought to a standstill due to policy uncertainty surrounding the future of the large-scale component of the Renewable Energy Target (RET).
With little support from federal or even state governments, it has fallen to local government councils to roll-out utility-scale solar, providing a hedge against rising electricity prices for themselves and rate-payers.
Queensland’s Sunshine Coast Council has led the way on this, having already lodged a development application to transform 24 hectares of a former sugar plantation near Coolum into a 10-15MW solar farm.
In the works since July 2013, the proposed Valdora Solar Farm would be one of Australia’s largest big solar examples, generating enough power to meet at least half the council’s electricity needs for the next 30 years, and slashing its energy costs.
The planned Fremantle project, if it goes ahead, would not be far behind its Queensland cousin – in size – and according to Mayor Brad Pettit, would be a solid step towards a zero-carbon Fremantle.
“The Fremantle community has been a consistent leader in creating a more sustainable, low carbon Fremantle and this further enables that,” he said.
Mayor Pettit says the solar farm proposal – although still a few years away from regulatory approval – offers a great opportunity to locate a renewable energy source close to a major load centre and to engage directly with the progressive Fremantle community.
“Rather than buying our power from a distant coal-fired power station we will be able to buy power produced sustainably and probably more cheaply from around the corner in South Fremantle,” he said.
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