200MW Solar Farm Decision Foiled By Coronavirus

Raywood Solar Farm

Image: South Energy

So close, yet so far away – well, perhaps not. A decision on approval for a solar farm + battery storage facility in Victoria’s north has been put on the backburner due to COVID-19.

UPDATE March 25: Loddon Shire Council informs us “the application has been approved under delegation”. It was approved today.

Loddon Shire Council was to decide on the fate of one of South Energy’s projects this afternoon – the proposed 200MW (AC) Raywood Solar Farm. The company hopes to commence construction in late 2020 and that the facility will be fully operational in late 2021.

However, in consultation with Councillors, Loddon Shire Council CEO Phil Pinyon has decided today’s Council meeting will be adjourned due to the COVID-19 emergency. The next meeting for Council is scheduled for 28 April, and arrangements for that meeting will be reviewed in the interim.

A green light for Raywood Solar Farm was/is tantalisingly close, with the recommendation in what was the agenda for today’s meeting stating:

“That Council resolve to grant a planning permit for planning permit 5414 Use and development of land for a Renewable Energy Facility (solar) and Utility Installation (substation) and associated buildings and works, removal of native vegetation and business identification signage at CA 14, Section B Lot 1 PS 34083 Parish Yarraberb 4067 Pyramid Yarraberb Rd Sebastian and direct that a Notice of Decision be issued.”

The 360ha site for the proposed project is around 3.5km north of the Loddon Valley Highway and 17km east of the town of Bridgewater. Currently zoned for farming, sheep may be used to manage vegetation growth among the solar panel arrays during the operation of the facility, which has an expected life of 30 years.

The decision report indicates approximately 609,000 solar panels will be used for the 200MW project, which will be installed on single-axis trackers. As for the battery storage aspect, that is noted as up to 20MW/20MWh. Raywood Solar Farm will be connected to the grid using the existing 220kV Kerang to Bendigo line within the site.

Only one, but wide-ranging, objection was lodged regarding the development application. One of the concerns noted in that objection was risk to the Spotted Tail Quoll – these cute little fellows:

Image: Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).

To address this issue, the majority of remnant vegetation on the site is to be retained, including vegetation along a creek; plus wildlife-safe fencing will be used.

Large-Scale Solar In Loddon

There’s not much in the way of large-scale solar energy facilities in Loddon Shire yet, but that should soon change.

BayWa r.e has received the go-ahead from Council for its 55MW(ac) solar project for a site around eight kilometres east of  Bridgewater, and in December last year Council gave the thumbs up to a 100MW project at Derby.

The only large-scale solar PV systems; i.e. over 100kW, currently operating in the Loddon Shire region appear to be Newbridge Solar Plant (690kW), Bridgewater Solar (500kW) and Pyramid Salt’s project at Pyramid Hill (300kW).

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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