Friday, June 21, 2024

Govt approves $100m debt finance to controversial solar farm

Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, has today announced a $100 million debt finance deal for the controversial Walla Walla Solar Farm in southwest NSW.

The 300-megawatt facility, located 40km north of Albury-Wodonga, is being developed by the Saudi-owned company, FRV Services Australia.

Mr Bowen says the project is set to create around 250 jobs during construction and help deliver around 600,000 solar panels with total capacity to supply more than 100,000 NSW homes and businesses.

The Farm will be the state’s third biggest, the Minister said.

“The Albanese Government is working to ramp up renewable energy generation, and the Walla Walla Solar Farm will provide great opportunities for Riverina businesses and create 250 local jobs.”

“To be built on 605 hectares leased from two landowners, the facility will sit close to transmission lines that can transfer power to and from Victoria and South Australia.

“Renewables are the cheapest form of energy, and this project will put cleaner, cheaper and more secure energy into the grid.

“Australia will need to install more than 60 million, five-hundred watt solar panels by 2030 to achieve our emissions reduction targets. There are more than half a million panels in this project alone, and we have many more in our sights,” said Mr Bowen.

He said the Government was working closely with the CEFC to make Australia a renewable energy superpower, with many projects slated for regional Australia to boost local economies.

The project has attracted significant opposition from local residents and Greater Hume Shire Council, whose objections included the potential ‘heat island’ effect of the facility, impacts on biodiversity, and visual intrusion on the local landscape.

In 2020 the project was referred to the NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC) for determination due to opposition from Council and the community.

The IPC granted development consent, subject to certain conditions, with the commissioners being “of the view that the Project is in accordance with the [Environmental Planning and Assessment] Act and is in the public interest”.

The conditions “have been designed to prevent, minimise and/or offset adverse environmental impacts; set standards and performance measures for acceptable environmental performance,” and “outline how the land can be returned to its current use following decommissioning and rehabilitation of the site”, the IPC said at the time.

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