The Smoky Creek Solar Farm would have the ability to power  about 200,000 homes.
The Smoky Creek Solar Farm would have the ability to power about 200,000 homes. Edify Energy

NEW PROJECT: Hundreds of jobs for huge $550m solar farm

THE sleepy area of Dixalea in the Banana Shire could be home to CQ's largest solar farm.

The $550million project has the potential to support up to 400 jobs during construction.

It would also have the ability to supply about 200,000 homes.

An application is going back and forth with the Banana Shire Council for a large-scale 450MW solar farm.

Edify Energy Pty Ltd has plans to develop Smoky Creek Solar Farm on a series of properties at Dodson's Rd at Dixalea/Ulogie.

This area is near the Goovigen and Jambin areas, off the Burnett Hwy.

A large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) power station facility has been proposed to go on 2113ha, 1993ha of this would have infrastructure built on it.

Edify Energy's head of project development Andy Winter spoke to The Morning Bulletin and said the site had the potential to become one of the largest projects in the region.

The largest solar farm proposal was in the Toowoomba region, 2000MW.

The existing solar farms in Central and Western Queensland were quite small in comparison to Smoky Creek Solar Farm. The Longreach Solar Farm has a 15MW capacity, Dunblane (Barcaldine) at 11MW capacity and Emerald Solar Farm has a capacity of 68MW.

In the Banana Shire, there were proposals for two other solar farms, Moura Solar Farm (110MW) and Baralaba Solar Farm (92MW).

There were two solar farms in the Central Highlands under construction. Lilyvale Solar Farm has a capacity of 100MW and Middlemount Sun Farm 28MW.

The existing use for the Smoky Creek Solar Farm is rural land for cattle grazing and one lot is an existing residential dwelling.

Mr Winter said there were three landholders for the proposed solar farm, and it was the landholders who had approached Edify Energy with their interest first.

One landholder had been speaking with another landholder who leases land to Edify Energy in Collinsville for another solar farm.

"It was their decision to re-purpose the land," MrWinter said.

Since then, the two other neighbours had come forward.

Mr Winter explained they have held meetings with the neighbours and landlorders who returned calls and were willing to meet at the site.

"We're not looking to do anything by stealth," he said.

Before any construction would start, a public notice would need to be lodged.

Edify Energy had further plans on consulting the local community.

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Mr Winter said they were looking at holding a town hall-type meeting where members of the local community could come and better understand the project.

The area was identified as an area of interest for a while as CQ had "really good solar resource".

"Agriculture has been a strong contributor in the local shire as is mining and power generation, we see this as consolidation to the region for the longer term and to de-risk the reliance on the core industries," MrWinter said.

"Fundamentally it's close to a point of connection (Callide), we marry up the solar resource with the transmission capacity and find land parcels that are compatible.

Access and availability of skilled workers were also key components in new projects.

"In this case we have excellent road access to the port of Gladstone and the location of Callide and Stanwell power station creates a ready supply of local trades and supplies," MrWinter said.

This facility would be connected to Powerlink's 275kV Calvale (near Callide A power station) to Stanwell transmission line via a new switchyard.

The new facility would output 450MW of clean, green energy and would be constructed in stages.

The site would include solar panels and mounting/tracking infrastructure, site office and five car parks, access and perimeter track and security perimeter fence, battery storage facility, facility switchyard and inverter stations.

It is expected the construction would peak at 400 labourers as each stage of the development would require different resources.

It would be split into three stages with each stage expected to take 12-18 months.

Edify Energy has said all the workforce would be from the Banana Shire and where specialised resources were required from other regions, they would be accommodated in Biloela.

A bus service would transfer workers from Biloela to the site, substantially limiting the number of private vehicles accessing the site.

After completion of the facility, five staff would be employed when required for maintenance.

The development would consist of several solar array areas or blocks of photovoltaic modules arranged in series of long rows.

The modules would be mounted on frames and they will would track the sun to optimise energy generation.

The rows would be four to six metres apart and the modules would be no higher than three metres above ground level at the maximum tilt.

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Banana Shire Council has held several pre-lodgement meetings with Edify Energy, including one in February 2018 and another in July 2018.

A councillors' workshop session was held in August 2018 and was attended by councillors and other key council staff.

It is not known what the timeline would be for the project be at this stage, however MrWinter was more than confident it would go ahead at some stage.

"I couldn't speculate.

"We try and develop as speedily and efficiently as we can," MrWinter said.

"We are very reliant on third parties throughout.

"It won't eventuate overnight, there is a process we need to follow."

Mr Winter stressed that Edify Energy were long-term developers.

He said they would retain the ownership and operational control even after the project was constructed.

They have planned to regularly liaise with neighbours and implement a hotline for neighbours.

"If they have any enquiries, they can pick up the phone, it will be us on our desk and we take full ownership of that going forward," he said.

"We're in it for the long haul."

SMOKY CREEK SOLAR FARM

Dodson's Rd, Dixalea/Ulogie

3,136ha site, 2,13ha with development

450MW capacity

$550million project

400 workers in construction

To be built in three stages

Five employees upon completion

Solar panel technology utilises semiconductor material designed to absorb and convert sunlight into electricity. The panels will be mounted on single-axis trackers (which tilt from circa -55 to +55 degrees throughout the day) to collect and covert solar energy into electricity.

FUN FACT: Approximately 40 per cent of Queensland's energy generation capacity is provided by the power plants at Stanwell, Callide and Gladstone.