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Sunshine Coast cashes in on namesake with solar plans

16th Jul 2013

Who would have thought that a place called the Sunshine Coast might be a good place to exploit solar power resources?

Well, it appears the local council is keen to start cashing in on its namesake and begin ramping up its solar power initiatives, starting with a large-scale solar farm.

Mayor Mark Jamieson said tapping into the region's solar opportunities will deliver savings running into the millions of dollars.

"Currently council spends about $11 million annually on electricity and like everyone else has been exposed to the marked increases in power prices in recent years," he explained.

However, the solar farm - set to be built at Valdora near Coolum - could meet up to half of the authority's energy demands for at least three decades.

"If our market-sounding exercises stack up, we would be the first council to build a solar farm at utility scale in Australia, and it will be potentially the largest in the nation," Mr Jamieson stated.

The farm would cost between $24 million and $30 million, he added, but it would reduce the Sunshine Coast's carbon footprint, while helping push it towards being the most sustainable region in Australia.

There would also be indirect advantages to the economy, the mayor said, with $10 million generated from its construction over the next ten years and 40 jobs created during its development.

Councillor for new and emerging industries Stephen Robinson said current estimates are conservative and there is a chance the output and project life of the solar farm could be much greater than anticipated.

"Council would also be well placed to leverage investment in the solar farm project by continuing to develop the 'clean-tech' industry hub on the Sunshine Coast," Robinson noted.

There would be opportunities to outsource the skills of workers who are employed on the project to similar initiatives across the country.

The solar farm appears to have the full support of the state-owned electricity distributor Energex, with the company's chief executive Terry Effeney saying it is a positive application of solar PV.

He said: "The Valdora project represents another step in the ongoing collaboration between the Sunshine Coast Council and Energex regarding local electricity supplies and peak demand management."

Effeney confirmed his organisation would continue to work with the Sunshine Coast Council during the implementation phase of the project.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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