PROGRESS: The Victorian Government has given the green light for construction of the $169million Carwarp Solar Farm. The project forms part of an ongoing partnership between Canadian Solar, Sunraysia Institute of TAFE and Mildura Regional Development. Pictured are SuniTAFE CEO, Geoff Dea, Mildura Regional Development CEO, Daryl Buckingham, and Canadian Solar general manager, Daniel Ruoss. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By VINNIE RODI

THE Victorian Government has given the green light for construction of the ‘Carwarp Solar Farm,’ with the $169million project to be headed by the Canadian Solar group following ongoing negotiations with Mildura Regional Development (MRD). 

The Carwarp site is one of six renewable energy projects approved by the Victorian Government this week. Once operational the Carwarp Solar Farm will generate 121.6 megawatts of power.

An estimated 340 new jobs will also be created in what is being described as “a significant investment” in the region, with ongoing and flow-on effects also announced.

Investment commitments made by Canadian Solar, estimated to be in the vicinity of $1.4million, and made following negotiations with MRD, include:

• Funding the installation of a 20-kilowatt solar array at Sunraysia Institute of TAFE and MRD’s Smart Farming training facility by the end of 2018.

• Funding 15 higher education scholarships per year during the first five years of the term. A number of these scholarships will be offered exclusively to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

• Funding four higher education scholarships per year during the next 10 years of the term (school leavers and continuing education students in areas of education relating to energy and technology).

• Undertaking a feasibility study into the establishment of a photovoltaic module assembly site within Australia.

• Delivering world-class solar power systems with plans to offer residents of the wider Carwarp and Red Cliffs community the opportunity to purchase solar panels at an economic price as part of a bulk purchase program.

• Raising awareness about the strong business case for solar and the broader benefits of the sector.

Construction of the Carwarp site is scheduled to begin in early 2019, with operations anticipated to start in early 2020.

MRD Chief Executive Officer, Daryl Buckingham, welcomed the announcement, saying it is further evidence of Mildura’s growing reputation as a place “ripe for investment and business.”

“Solar power projects such as the one to be constructed in Carwarp are great for our region, they will create job opportunities and drive growth, they support environmental sustainability, and, crucially, will assist in putting downward pressure on the cost of power for both local business and families,” he said.

“MRD has been working extremely hard behind the scenes to secure the Canadian Solar project, with a view to expanding its community contribution beyond the solar installation itself. 

“It is our belief that we need to attract new business and initiatives to our region and embed them in the community, from a social and investment perspective. 

“The Canadian Solar project ticks these boxes, with a commitment to a community engagement and benefit sharing program.

“Mildura has the advantage of vast tracts of flat land, ideal for construction and other development projects, we also have a great deal of sunshine. 

“We are known as a hub for horticulture, agriculture and innovation, becoming the centre for solar power makes sense, and fits well with everything else we are achieving. 

“I look forward to seeing construction start out at Carwarp, and for many other projects to follow.

“Everything MRD does aims to have jobs and educational pathways attached, and again this provides us with a national opportunity.”

MRD, SuniTAFE and Canadian Solar signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) earlier this year in a bid to transform Mildura into a “centre of excellence” in the renewable energy space.

Through the agreement, SuniTAFE would aid in the training of skilled workers for the growing renewable energy industry, providing Canadian Solar – and other similar companies – with a ready-made workforce to assist with current and future projects.

“Our end game is for our region to become specialists in solar,” Mr Buckingham said. “Already we have seven solar farms approved for our region alone, and we’re looking at 15 years of solar development ahead of us.

“Our aim with SuniTAFE and this arrangement is to establish a Cert II in Renewable Energy course that solar companies can enrol their workers in.”