AN Australian-first solar farm that sets a shining example for other regions will go live tomorrow in the most fitting of locations - the Sunshine Coast.
The pioneering project will make Sunshine Coast Council the first local government in the nation to offset 100 per cent of its electricity consumption with energy from a renewable source.
The council developed the $50.4m facility at Valdora, west of Coolum, from scratch to deliver massive savings for ratepayers and send a clear message about the area's commitment to clean energy.
It will sell power harvested using 57,960 solar panels to the grid for the best price it can achieve and buy it back at the cheapest.
Mayor Mark Jamieson said the forward-thinking Sunshine Coast Solar farm would begin feeding electricity into the power grid tomorrow in an exciting day for the region and its residents.
He said it would allow council to take control of its own electricity supply, combating rising power bills and achieving an important sustainability milestone.
"All power consumed at all of council's facilities, including administration buildings, aquatic centres, community and performance venues, as well as holiday parks, libraries, art galleries and sporting facilities, will be offset with energy from a renewable source thanks to this nation-leading project," Cr Jamison said.
"We are the first council in Australia to build and operate a 15MW utility scale solar farm which will deliver $22 million in savings, after all costs, for our ratepayers over the next 30 years,'' he said.
"Our solar farm is the first, and will be the largest, to connect to the electricity grid in southeast Queensland. It is also the first in Australia to operate at 1500 volts DC which enables it to operate more efficiently.''
The project has attracted considerable attention with 15 councils around the country already inquiring about how they can follow in the Sunshine Coast's footsteps.
Cr Jamieson said the project had been developed and delivered solely by council, without any assistance from the Federal or State governments, unlike many other solar farms being developed in Australia.
Energex Asset Manager Northern Steven Lynch congratulated Sunshine Coast Council for its vision and determination to deliver this clean green initiative.
"We have been very pleased to work with the Council to see this project come to reality," Mr Lynch said. "Energex sees Grid Scale Projects like this as a key part of our low-carbon future.''
Downer Utilities Executive Director Trevor Cohen said Downer was pleased to partner council on its journey towards becoming Australia's most sustainable region.
"Downer is looking forward to the operation and maintenance phase of this project and to continue growing our relationship with council and the local community," Mr Cohen said.
Diamond Energy was selected to provide retail electricity services to council. Managing director Tony Sennitt said it was a pleasure working with such a forward-thinking council and to see the ground-breaking project become a reality.
BRIGHT FUTURE: Solar project delivers power to the people
- The Sunshine Coast Solar Farm is the largest built in southeast Queensland
- It is the second largest solar farm built in Queensland, behind Barcaldine Solar farm (20MW), which is not council owned
- At its peak, the facility will generate 15,000 kilowatts of electricity, which will go straight into the Energex network
- The Sunshine Coast is the first Council in Australia to build a utility scale solar farm of 15MW capacity
- The electricity generated over one year will be enough to power the equivalent of 5000 homes