Atherton Solar Farm Gets Development Approval

Atherton Solar Farm

Queensland’s Tablelands Regional Council has approved the development of a solar farm near Tolga – but it wasn’t a slam-dunk decision and some confusing aspects of the project remain.

Atherton Solar Farm is a proposed 81MW project we’ve previously mentioned. It will be situated near Tolga, a small town around 90 kilometres from Cairns by road.

Before approval at a council meeting last week, a couple of councillors had to leave the meeting as they reported a perceived conflict of interest. One councillor said his son’s business and potentially his own will be bidding on work for the solar project. Another said her husband and son are involved in the civil construction sector and may tender on the job.

Another councillor, Deputy Mayor Katrina Mellick, voted against the motion.

According to the Cairns Post (paywall), Cr. Mellick is concerned the development will occur on what is considered good quality agricultural land and some residents will overlook the solar farm.

“Put simply to me this is the right development at the right time but I just can’t see that it is in the right location,” said Cr. Mellick.

There are still a number of conditions that will need to be met before commencement of construction, and before commencement of use the developer will need to prepare and submit Glare and Glint Assessment to Council for approval.

Battery Storage – Or Not?

I’m a little confused about this project. In the unconfirmed minutes from Council’s June 27 meeting, it notes: ” (60MW Solar Farm) including Substation (81MW DC Battery Storage Facility)”. This “81MW DC Battery” is mentioned several times in the document.  The development application states:

“Proposed 81MW DC Battery Storage Facility General Arrangement”

.. and this is the only mention of battery storage in that particular document. However, the document it references contains a site map indicating a “future battery storage facility” – capacity not mentioned.

Large-scale solar project documents and information websites can be complex and tricky beasts, often having oddly-noted/conflicting/outdated/incorrect information or items left out – it’s little wonder some who may be impacted by these developments get confused and cranky.

The Atherton Solar website describes the project as an 81MWdc/60MWac facility, but doesn’t mention anything about battery storage. Now thoroughly confused, I’ve shot off a note to the developers for clarification on project specs and I’ll update this post if I get a response.

In the meantime and in summary, there’s likely going to be a solar farm built there soon that may have battery storage in the future, not everyone is happy but it’s been given the go ahead.

THE END (for now)

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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