A 75MW solar and battery plant proposed for Victoria’s Latrobe Valley has been waved through by the state government as part of a decision to fast track construction and other project that will create jobs and stimulate growth in the post-Covid economy.
South Energy’s $110 million Frasers solar farm near Toongabbie in eastern Victoria was one of more than $1 billion worth of building and development projects – and the only renewable energy project – to be “called in” and approved for development by state planning minister Richard Wynne on Wednesday.
The raft of planning permits was issued as part of the Building Victoria’s Recovery Taskforce’s fast-track function, aimed at creating jobs and stimulating economic growth while also contributing to broader social objectives like emissions reduction.
Frasers Solar Farm had been proposed for development around 2km south of Toongabbie and 5km north of Glengarry in eastern Victoria, spanning 110 hectares and comprising around 228,000 solar panels, and potentially including an up to 20MW/40MWh battery energy storage system.
According to the project website, South Energy had submitted a planning permit application to the relevant authority in November of last year, with the aim of starting construction in 2021 and be fully operational in 2022.
A report in the Latrobe Valley Express in June said the site had been chosen for its proximity to existing electricity network infrastructure, as well as for its promising solar resource.
South Energy has also noted the project presents an opportunity for vertical farming, which in this case could mean having sheep graze among the solar panels, and benefit from the shading and protection they provide. A community investment program is also being initiated around the project.
“It’s more important than ever we continue adding to our pipeline of shovel ready projects to create jobs and stimulate the economy as we get to the other side of this second wave [of Covid-19],” said state treasurer Tim Pallas on Wednesday in a statement accompanying the announcement.
“Victoria’s building and development sector is a key driver of our economy and these projects signal our commitment to give this industry the support it needs to make it through to the other side of the pandemic,” added planning minister, Richard Wynne.
South Energy has four more solar projects in its development pipeline for Victoria and another two in Western Australia.
Interestingly, the company’s 200MW Raywood solar and battery farm, proposed for construction in Sebastian in northern Victoria, was also given special passage through the approval process, in that case by the local council.
As RenewEconomy reported in March, the project had looked like getting stuck in development limbo during the first wave of Covid-19 shutdowns, but was given the go-ahead after the Loddon Shire Council dropped a protocol requiring its sign-off for projects that attracted community objections.