Solar future starts here

TASMANIA’S first large-scale solar farm, with 400ha of solar panels capable of powering one quarter of the state’s homes, could be up and running on Connorville Station at Cressy within three years.

The Northern Midlands Solar Farm is a green-energy project in which property owner Roderic O’Connor has already invested millions of dollars over the past year.

With planning advice from consultants Robert Luxmoore, he will be putting a development application to the Northern Midlands Council in coming weeks ahead of technical impact assessments for issues such as biodiversity, visual impact, noise, traffic and cultural heritage plus negotiating a transmission agreement with Tas Networks and a private purchasing agreement to fund the project to completion.

The solar farm will consist of thousands of solar panels that follow the path of the sun, as well as a substation and battery- storage facility on two of the lowest-producing sections of farmland at Connorville, about 5km east of the homestead.

Once operational the site will still be able to be used for grazing sheep while outputting 300MW of renewable energy – double the output of Granville Harbour Wind Farm on the West Coast and Cattle Hill Wind Farm on the shores of Lake Echo in the southern central plateau.

Two small solar farms, one at George Town, and the other at Wesley Vale, could also be up and running in the next few years, outputting 5MW and 12.5MW respectively.

Community engagement has begun with a public meeting held at Cressy last week

attended by about 30 local residents.

Aside from job creation during onstruction, the solar farm is expected to produce lower electricity prices for surrounding areas with opportu- nities for behind-the-meter agreement. While not the main objective, battery storage will allow for energy to be released into the grid during periods of peak demand.

However, the majority of power produced will go directly

into the Palmerstone trans- mission station about 14km away, with a new line to cross four adjoining properties.

Potentially assisting the state to reach its target of 200 per cent renewable energy by 2040, the power could be used in the production of green hydrogen to replace diesel fuel in heavy haulage and mining and to attract and support major business developments.

Mr O’Connor was approached by a friend

wanting him to join forces and explore the potential of a renewable energy project in the State Government-identified Northern Midlands zone.

While not initially thinking about his own property, Mr O’Connor said it became clear that Connorville was possibly the only one meeting the criteria.

“Tasmania gets more day- light hours than you think, akin to central Victoria, and we identified a section of land far enough from the shadow of

the Western Tiers where a solar farm could barely be visible to passing traffic,” he said.

“It’s a perfect fit for the environment, for rotational grazing underneath the panels and it doesn’t affect the farm’s wool production or conservation areas.

“We could have gone about 20 percent bigger but we are constrained by the limits of the power lines.”

As it turns out improved technology since the project

began has made up the difference.

Panels can be placed on the underside of the sun-facing panels where they take up enough reflected light from the ground to make them viable.

“We are already getting noticed by state, interstate and international companies and I’m very excited to see the potential unfold.”

Another community meeting about the project will be scheduled in coming months.