How will the solar farm generate energy?

The proposed Axedale Solar Farm will consist of ground-mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) modules or panels that are made up of silicon cells. The cells convert sunlight into energy that will then be transported via AusNet Services’ existing 220kV transmission network to the main electricity grid for use by homes and businesses.

How will the Axedale Solar Farm supply power to homes and businesses?

The solar farm will connect to the nearby electricity transmission network that is owned and managed by AusNet Services. Power will flow through to the local electricity network where it will be used by homes and businesses.

Will it help cut greenhouse gas emissions?

Yes. The solar farm will produce enough clean renewable energy to power up to 55,000 Victorian homes without producing any greenhouse gas emissions. It will help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 200,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, the equivalent of taking about 45,000 average cars off the road.

How will the solar panels be installed?

The PV panels will be arranged in rows spaced several metres apart, either on a fixed tilt or single axis tracking system. A single axis tracking system is mounted on top of steel piles, that are typically driven into the ground. The trackers consist of a horizontal “tracker tube” and motors which will enable the panels to track the sun throughout the day in an east-west direction.

What’s the size of the solar farm site?

A 624-hectare site was originally investigated for the solar farm. That area was reduced to 365 hectares after conducting a fauna & flora survey and consulting with landowners and the local community.

The site comprises of mostly cleared grazing land and will accommodate rows of solar panels, inverters, internal access tracks, an on-site substation and environmental buffer areas.

Why was this site chosen for the solar farm?

The site consists of mostly cleared, flat, grazing land that has relatively few environmental constraints. An existing 220 kV power line owned and operated by AusNet Services runs through the middle of the proposed site, making it easy to supply power into the national grid.

How long will the solar farm be there?

The solar farm will have a design life of 25-30 years. At the end of this time the facility will be decommissioned and the land returned to farming operations. It is also possible to re-power the facility by replacing key equipment.

What is the impact on local farming operations?

Much of the existing site is currently used for sheep grazing and cropping. The solar farm will be designed and constructed so that sheep can continue to graze in between and under the solar panels.

Solar farms are a relatively low impact development. Heavy earth works are avoided wherever possible, and the piles are typically driven or screwed into the ground. This means the site can be returned to a condition suitable for agricultural use once the solar farm is decommissioned.

What is the benefit to the local economy?

The construction phase is expected to last for 12 to 18 months. The project is expected to generate up to 250 jobs during peak construction and several ongoing fulltime jobs during operation. An additional 50 jobs could be created if a battery energy storage system is included in the project.

It is expected these jobs would be in the area of civil works (fencing installation, internal access road construction and other site preparation works), PV module installation, electrical works (assembly of electrical equipment, low, medium and high voltage electrical services), and site office establishment.

There would also be a number of sub-contracting opportunities for local tradespeople such as electricians and plumbers, fencing and maintenance contractors, and weed/pest control as well as the generation of indirect jobs in areas such as catering and short-term accommodation providers.

Renewable energy developments in rural areas are proven to result in significant upside to the local and regional economies. It will help create additional jobs and the money spent by workers in the region during construction will boost household incomes. This will continue over the life of the solar farm as a result of activities related to operations and maintenance.

Click here to register your interest in employment or contracting opportunities.

How will local residents and business access employment or contracting opportunities from the solar farm?

Wherever possible, local residents and businesses will be prioritised for jobs, contracting and procurement of materials for the solar farm, so that benefits to the local economy and community can be maximised.

As the development progresses, UPC will hold information sessions for local businesses and residents to find out more about these opportunities.

Click here to lodge your interest in employment or contracting opportunities.

Will workers be employed from outside the region and how will they be accommodated?

Due to the large number of workers required for the construction phase, it is expected that some jobs may need to be filled from outside the local community. These workers would either come from their homes in the surrounding region or use accommodation services in the local towns and nearby cities.

When will construction on the solar farm begin and how long will it take?

Construction is expected to begin in mid-2021, after grid connection and financing arrangements for the project are finalised. It is estimated to take 12 to 18 months to complete construction.

What is the current stage of development?

A Planning Permit has been issued by the City of Greater Bendigo and Campaspe Shire Councils, after careful consideration of the project planning application and biodiversity, traffic and hydrology reports. A number of conditions were placed on the project development and ongoing operation as part of the approval. These include:

  • Protection for small parcels of remaining native vegetation and the un-named waterway which runs through the site
  • Requirements to manage pests & weeds, and stormwater & erosion; and
  • The submission of management plans for construction, traffic management, waste, environmental risks and noise.

Will the solar panels generate glare?

Solar panels are intended to absorb light to maximise their efficiency. Usually solar panels reflect about 2% of sunlight which is less than the reflectivity produced by a wide variety of surfaces in the existing environment surrounding and within the development footprint.

This can be contrasted with bodies of water, such as lakes and dams, which typically reflect 5% of sunlight.

Will the solar farm cause flooding?

Due to the considerable spacing between the rows of solar panels in a single axis tracking solar farm, there is adequate space for the water to run off naturally to the ground. The potential for the solar farm to cause flooding is considered negligible. Due to the spacing between the panels, ground covering vegetation will naturally regenerate after construction is finished, which will help to control storm water runoff.

How will the project strengthen the local community?

UPC is proposing to establish a Community Benefit Sharing Initiative that will support local projects by providing funding based on the power generating capacity installed at the Axedale Solar Farm.