LIGHT ON THE MOVE: Syncline Energy managing director, Phil Galloway, announced this week that the Bannerton Solar Park would go ahead, with the 100-megawatt plant to supply energy to power Melbourne’s tram network.

By JOHN DOOLEY

IT’S finally official, a new 100-megawatt solar power station will be constructed on a Bannerton orchard owned by Almas Almonds, located just over an hour’s drive south of Mildura.

In announcing the go ahead of the $100million project, Syncline Energy managing director, Philip Galloway, said his company developed the project in association with the Foresight Group – a UK infrastructure fund.

On Wednesday the Victorian Government also announced that the Bannerton Solar Park had won a tender to provide solar energy for Melbourne’s tram network.

The project is also expected to create a significant number of employment opportunities, with up to 180 jobs during the construction period, and then during its operation, 15 full-time staff.

Another 10 contractor jobs, which will peak during panel cleaning periods, will also be required.

“It’s great news that the Government is supporting the project by purchasing the large-scale generation certificates (LGC’s) from the company,” Mr Galloway said.

Accredited renewable energy power stations are entitled to create LGC’s based on the amount of eligible renewable electricity they produce above their baseline.

One LGC is equal to one megawatt hour of eligible renewable electricity.

“The 100-megawatt capacity, 95,000 solar panel plant will have the potential to supply about 30,000 homes with solar energy, and the project will support the power grid’s stability through the construction of 16 kilometres of power lines and the operation of inverters,” Mr Galloway said.

He also predicts the plant will help reduce power prices for all users in the Robinvale region, and areas between Red Cliffs and Boundary Bend, by reducing energy loss factors.

“There is a cost to the transmission grid, with the energy losses from the transmission lines experienced between the Latrobe Valley and Robinvale, and so by producing power in the Robinvale area, those costs are largely avoided, which benefits all local energy users,” he said.

He also believes that this, in turn, will benefit agricultural ‘value-add’ activities, such as freezing and cool room storage operations.

“The wonderful thing about the Bannerton project is that it’s being constructed on land that can’t really be planted for orchards, and so there isn’t any displacement of productive agricultural land,” Mr Galloway said.

Member for Mallee Andrew Broad, while welcoming the investment, said he is cautious about saying energy prices will fall as a result.

“The reality is renewables are responsible for rising power prices because of the subsidies the industry receives,” he said.

Mr Broad chairs the Commonwealth’s House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Energy, which is soon to hand down an inquiry into how best to reconstruct the Australian Electricity Grid.

“There will be some interesting things in the report in regard to the grid,” Mr Broad said.

“My view is that we need to move away from subsidising power stations such as solar and wind, and actually look at what additional grid infrastructure we need to build.”

Syncline Energy is one of many proponents who had sought to establish a major solar power generation facility in the region, which boasts more sunshine than the Gold Coast.

Construction is set to commence in October this year, with completion expected by July 2018. The project is being financed by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, with institutional investment from both Asia and Europe supplying the equity. The plant’s infrastructure will be built by Australian construction company UGL Limited.

“Over time, our company also hopes to make a significant contribution to the region’s community by supporting a variety of entities, something I look forward to personally being involved in,” Mr Galloway said.