Numurkah Solar Farm on track

By Rodney Woods

Power from the solar farm currently being built at Drumanure will be used to cover the running of Melbourne’s trams and a factory at Laverton.

Victoria’s Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio visited the Numurkah Solar Farm last week to inspect the progress of construction, which is still on track to be completed by May next year.

However, the outcomes of another Neoen project at Lemnos and two other projects in the Greater Shepparton area are still up in the air.

‘‘We are here today to inspect the progress of the construction of this fantastic new solar farm in northern Victoria,’’ Ms D’Ambrosio said.

‘‘Now why is this important? This project was initiated as a result of the Victorian Government’s very strong ambition for growing renewable energy.

‘‘We went out to tender about 18 months ago with a renewable certificate purchasing initiative and that was to see new projects being built in Victoria after a number of years under the previous state government where we saw investment in renewable energy dry up.

‘‘So what we decided to do was to go out for tender for two solar projects that would power Victoria’s trams and I’m absolutely delighted that Numurkah Solar Farm was one of the winning bids.’’

Neoen Australia managing director Franck Woitiez said the 128MW structure was on track to be connected to the grid in May next year.

‘‘The progress of the work is satisfactory — on time, on budget, everything is all right,’’ Mr Woitiez said.

With 200 jobs created at the peak of construction, and 60 currently on site, Mr Woitiez said this would not be the only benefit to the local community.

‘‘The benefits flowing through the community are more than just the local construction jobs, the activity in the local pubs, the sub-contractors, the fencing companies or whatever we can source from here we do through our partner Downer, the company responsible for the construction of the solar farm.’’

When asked about future applications and whether they should all be decided by the planning minister as wind farms are, Ms D’Ambrosio said both Richard Wynne and local councils were on the same page.

‘‘I think what’s important here is that the planning minister is doing the work diligently in consultation and close engagement with local government,’’ she said.

‘‘So he is very attuned to what local government is saying and I’m confident that once the guidelines have gone through that really important consultation phase that there will be a set of guidelines out there that local governments will be comfortable with and local communities can have confidence in.’’

Ms D’Ambrosio was joined at the site by Ross Garnaut, the president of SIMEC ZEN Energy, the Australian energy arm of Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance, which has signed an agreement to use some of the power from the Numurkah Solar Farm to power the Laverton steelworks factory.