Construction of the $100 million Collinsville Solar Farm is on track to start in the first half of this year after project developer Ratch Australia Corporation announced today it had entered into an agreement with Alinta Energy for the energy retailer to purchase electricity and Large-scale Generation Certificates (LGCs) generated by the farm through to the end of 2030.
The 42 megawatt (MW) solar farm will feature around 180,000 solar photovoltaic panels and supply power equivalent to the annual needs of 15,000 homes. This is equivalent to all the homes in the Whitsunday region.
The project site is in close proximity to the old Collinsville coal-fired power station to take advantage of existing electrical infrastructure including substations and Ergon Energy’s distribution network.
Ratch’s Executive General Manager Business Development, Anthony Yeates, said the company would be working hard with its contractors, regional authorities and services to start construction within months. Construction is expected to take approximately 12 months.
“This is a major milestone for the project as the power purchase agreement provides the revenue stream which underpins the project. We are pleased to further our relationship with Alinta Energy and help to support growth in their retail business”,” Mr Yeates said.
“We are now in a position to finalise our construction and financing arrangements and to firm up the construction timetable, and expect to share this information with all relevant stakeholders as soon as possible. We expect pre-construction activities will take about three months so if all goes to plan we will break ground before June and have the first generation from the project by this time next year”.
The project will have a peak construction workforce of around 70 and employ two permanent staff once complete. Up to 20 staff will be required every six months to clean the solar panels.
Mr Yeates said engineering and construction of the project would be contracted out to a tier one contractor which will be responsible for all subcontracting and purchasing and be contractually required to provide clear pathways for local workers and suppliers to participate in the project.
“We are in the process of finalising our debt financing arrangements at the moment, and once that is completed we will be able to get underway. This project has the potential to provide millions of dollars of investment in the Whitsunday region, create much needed jobs, and grow the order books of local companies, and we are very keen to get it commenced” he said.
“Local purchasing will include a wide range of products and services from fencing contractors, concreters, welders, electricians, plant and equipment operators, transport contractors and administrators.”
The Collinsville Solar Farm received approval from the Whitsunday Regional Council in 2013 and was awarded $9.5 million in funding from the Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) in September 2016 after the Agency recognised the project as one of Australia’s premier solar projects.
Whitsunday Regional Council mayor Andrew Willcox welcomed Ratch’s investment in the region.
“This is great news for the Whitsundays, a major capital investment of nearly $100 million will have major economic significance to the region. It’s a new industry that will increase the diversity of the local economy and provide much needed employment opportunities for skilled and unskilled workers,” Mayor Willcox said.
Ratch owns and operates several renewable energy projects in Australia and is currently developing the 180 MW Mount Emerald Wind Farm near Mareeba which is due for completion in September next year.