The ACT Government unveils solar farm in Williamsdale

The ACT government recently unveiled its massive “solar highway” project of 36,000 solar PV systems at Williamsdale.

The Minister for Climate Change Mr. Shane Rattenbury noted that the long-awaited Williamsdale Solar Farm situated around 20 kilometres south of Canberra’s city centre, was capable of generating adequate electricity to power 3,000 households.

The rest of the solar farms in Mugga Lane, Mount Majura and Royalla would help make the “solar highway” complete, bringing the total number of panels to 177,000 along the 50 kilometre stretch.

“The future is here and it is clean, green and renewable,” Mr. Rattenbury stated as the Williamsdale Solar Farm was being officially launched.

“The clean power generated by the Williamsdale Solar Farm takes us another significant step towards achieving our target of 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2020 in the ACT.”

Impact of solar farm

Combined, the four solar farms would produce 85,500 megawatts hours of energy each year–a capacity that can power over 11,000 households.

Estimates from the ACT government show that solar farms have the potential of reducing greenhouse gases by 1.4 million tonnes in the next 20 years.

“The ACT is establishing itself as a world leader when it comes to investment in renewable energy and action on climate change,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“Already, renewable energy has driven around $500 million of investment into the local economy.”

Getting the solar highway project almost complete has not been without challenges for the ACT government.

The project was initiated by Elementus Energy in 2013 on the basis of a 20-year commitment by the government aimed at providing tariff support payments amounting to $2.3 million annually.

However, Elementus faced stiff resistance to its plan of setting up the farm near Uriarra Village, and was hence compelled to announce in 2015 that it would relocate the planned site to Williamsdale.

The project was then taken over by the Impact Investment Group which agreed to acquire and complete it for “up to $35 million”.

Lane Crockett, the general manager of the renewable energy fund said last week that the Williamsdale project was coming with huge economic and environmental benefits.

“The smartest investors and developers in the country aren’t trying to eke another few years out of old unreliable, polluting coal-fired infrastructure,” he said.

“They are building the clean generators that will deliver reliable electricity, crucial environmental benefits, health benefits and attractive financial returns.

“Meanwhile, our investors have confidence knowing that the ACT government has committed to buying the farm’s electricity for 20 years.”

Climate Council Report

The Williamsdale Solar Farm was launched on the same day the Climate Council released a report on the renewable energy sector in Australia.

The report pointed to political inertia as the only obstacle that prevents Australia from carrying out an overhaul of its ageing electricity grid using renewables.

“The nation’s leading energy experts, scientists and major authorities are all in agreement – Australia is ready to switch to a modern grid, powered by renewables and storage,” said Climate Council chief executive Amanda McKenzie.

In another report published by the International Energy Agency, for the very first time, the uptake of solar panels had grown faster than expected when compared to other sources of fuel.

The ACT government has brought into force a legislation that targets the generation of 100 percent of the territory’s electricity through renewables by 2020.

“By 2020 that ACT will produce 100 per cent of our electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar and, by 2050 at the latest, our city will produce zero net greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr. Rattenbury said.

The Author

I took an interest in the Australian energy sector close to ten years ago and since then have monitored the trends, technologies and direction of the Australian Energy Market. I was drawn to the Australian solar market in 2008 and since then have worked heavily in the field. I am partnered with national and international solar energy companies, from manufacturers of solar panel and inverter technology, online software developers that introduce tools to quote, monitor and manage solar power systems and media organisations who like myself, closely monitor the solar and renewable energy sector.