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Why does it make sense to build a solar farm in Proserpine?

Currently, there are not sufficient large electricity generation plants in the Whitsunday Region. Some Electricity has to be transported to the consumers for hundreds of kilometres. Overhead transmission lines used to transport electricity come with large losses. These losses increase for long distance. Kelsey Creek Solar Farm will be located in close proximity (3.5km) from a zone substation. Load centres like Proserpine, Bowen and Mackay are relatively close and most of the electricity will be transported for less than 150km. The advantage of a solar farm is that electricity generation takes place during the day – which is when the demand is at its highest. Due to this match of generation and consumption profiles, we feel that Kelsey Creek Solar Farm is a great fit for the Whitsunday Region.

Why is the Solar Farm located in this exact location and not somewhere else?

The location has been chosen due to a number of reasons:

  • Close proximity to a 66kV zone substation
  • No restrictions on the land (cultural heritage, environmental issues, land use) etc
  • The lot is freehold land and not used for any agricultural purposes
  • Sufficient capacity in the electricity network at this exact location
  • Landowner and local company are passionate about renewable energy
  • Large single portion of land
Will the solar farm reduce the availability of valuable sugarcane land?

Kelsey Creek Solar Farm will be located on freehold land. This land has never been used for cultivated farming purposes. Nutrient content is too low and farming this land would not be as efficient as in other areas in close proximity. Access roads will be built upon existing trails, cabling will be underground using existing easements. Therefore, Kelsey Creek Solar Farm will have no impact on the availability of agricultural land.

How will Kelsey Creek Solar Farm be connected to the electricity grid?

Kelsey Creek Solar Farm will be connected to Proserpine Zone substation – a facility owned partly by Powerlink and Ergon. A 66kV overhead powerline will be installed within the existing Ergon easement. No additional visual impact or safety hazard will be created. Farming and other usage forms of land are not affected by the new installation. From Proserpine substation on, the electricity will be transported to the bigger load centres in close proximity, such as Proserpine, Airlie Beach, Bowen and Mackay.

How much electricity will be produced by Kelsey Creek Solar Farm?

Kelsey Creek Solar Farm will generate electricity in the order of 109,000 MWh per year. This equals the consumption of more than 18,000 average Australian households or 11,000 average residential rooftop installations!

What is the price for electricity produced by Kelsey Creek Solar Farm?

Kelsey Creek Solar Farm does not yet have an agreement in place to sell its electricity. However, there is rising interest from retailers and government bodies to purchase electricity from renewable sources. Kelsey Creek Solar Farm is looking at signing up a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) with a retailer or the state. In doing so, the solar farm has to compete with other sources of electricity generation like coal or gas fired power plants. There are two components to the revenue stream arising from the solar farm output:

  • Electricity Price: Wholesale Electricity Price for Queensland; average annual price for Queensland was $50-$60 per MWh between 2013-2015. Peaks during summer.
  • LGCs (Large Scale Generation Certificates): Currently >$80 per MWh. Retailers and other generators of carbon emissions have to offset their pollution by generating or buying LGCs.
How many jobs will be created by Kelsey Creek Solar Farm?

Construction Level: At peak times, more than 100 skilled and unskilled workers will be required to construct Kelsey Creek Solar Farm. Wherever possible, the EPC contractor will source these workers locally. Construction period will last for 6-12 months. Apart from direct labour, a construction site this size comes with other benefits for regional businesses, eg for hospitality, consumer goods, gas stations, construction material supply etc.  

Operational Level: The plant will consist of approx 200,000 solar panels and a variety of electrical equipment which will all need maintenance on a regular base. This task is best to be carried out by local technicians

What about the visual impact occurring from the reflection of sunlight on the panels?

The panels are installed at a fixed tilt, ie the panels do not change their angle. Therefore, the only glare potential is to the North, where there are no permanently inhabited houses within 2km. As the panels are installed at a fixed angle of 15 degrees, sunrays will be reflected towards the sky and potential glaring would take place only several hundred meters above ground. In general, solar panels are designed to absorb light and not to reflect it. For example, solar panels reflect significantly less light than flat water. Glass, one of the covering component of a solar panel, reflects only about 2-4% of the sunlight. Panels used for the construction of Kelsey Creek Solar Farm are treated with anti-reflective coating and reflect even less sunlight.

What are the health implications on human beings and livestock?

Many studies have been conducted on a global scale to assess potential impacts of large-scale solar PV on human beings and livestock. In fact, few power-generating technologies have as little environmental impact as photovoltaic solar panels. In contrast to other existing generators like coal or gas-fired power plants, solar farms have no ongoing emissions and operate purely on the conversion of sunlight to electricity. 

Because solar panels are encased in heavy-duty glass, there is little risk that the small amounts of potentially hazardous semiconductor material present can be released into the environment. 

In the event of a fire, it is theoretically possible for hazardous fumes to be released and inhalation of these fumes could pose a risk to human health. However, researchers do not generally believe these risks to be substantial given the short-duration of fires and the relatively high melting point of the materials present in the solar modules. Moreover, the risk of fire at ground-mounted solar installations is remote because of the precautions taken during site preparation including the removal of fuels and the lack of burnable materials – mostly glass – covering the solar panel. 

The solar farm will be surrounded by a 2.4m high cyclone fence, which will restrain children and livestock from entering the solar farm and will prevent them from getting harmed by electrical shocks or other forms of injuries.

Will Kelsey Creek Solar Farm affect land owners on adjacent lots?

The solar farm will be located entirely on the lot for which purpose a land lease agreement is put in place. The panels will be located several meters from the boundaries, so that no impact on neighbouring properties will occur. All adjacent land is used for the purpose of growing sugarcane, which will not be affected by the proximity of a solar farm.

What about natural disasters like flooding, cyclones or bushfires – how is the plant prepared for these kinds of events?

Based on the review of flood check maps and after consulting with local experts, it is not considered that the site is subject to a major flood risk. Drainage solutions have been identified to mitigate any risks and will be implemented during the construction of access roads and structural framework. The panel structures will be fixed to the ground via earth screws. Cabling and other electrical equipment will be shielded and protected sufficiently in order to avoid hazards if the site is flooded.

The site is located in Wind Zone C (tropical cyclones). Therefore, special equipment and engineering effort is required to ensure maximum safety in all weather conditions. The solar panels will be fixed to aluminium/steel structures. These structures will be rammed more than 1m deep into the ground. The installation will follow relevant Australian standards. Experienced engineers have calculated worst-case wind load scenarios in accordance with the relevant Australian standard AS1170.2 in case of cyclones. These calculations flow into the design of supporting structures and fixtures. 

Part of the site falls under the Whitsunday Regional Shire Natural Hazard Bushfire Risk Overlay. It is designated as either low or medium bushfire hazard. Given the status of the land, with cleared buffers around the site, it is considered to be generally a low risk for the site. Relevant key stakeholders at the Fire Authority will be consulted prior to construction and will be made aware of the special safety precautions necessary when working close to an electricity generator.

How much additional traffic will there be during the construction period?

The dedicated EPC partner will avoid all heavy vehicle traffic during peak hours. The main traffic route is described in the construction period report adjacent to this document. In total, 800-1,000 trucks will arrive on site during the Construction phase. The bulk truck load will consist of shipping containers filled with 200,000 solar panels. Due to the low traffic occurrence on the main access route during off-peak hours, the traffic implications should be negligible.

How will Kelsey Creek Solar Farm affect my personal electricity bill?

If any – a positive one! Kelsey Creek Solar Farm aims at increasing competition and increasing the available generation on a local base for the 4800 postcode area.

Single largest reason for rising power bills is the cost of upgrades to transmission and distribution infrastructure (for example, the poles and wires. This makes up about 40 to 50 per cent of the average household power bill, and would exist with or without the addition of solar power systems.

The call on electricity supplies at peak times during the day and year (for example, on really hot days when people turn on air conditioners) is a key driver of power price increases. This is known as ‘peak demand’ and is getting worse thanks to the rising use of energy-hungry appliances. It is estimated that 25 per cent of retail electricity costs are created by peak events that occur over less than 40 hours per year. This can be mitigated by introducing solar power, as peak demand typically occurs during hot summer days – which is when electricity generation from the solar farm is peaking, too.

For how long will Kelsey Creek Solar Farm be operational and what happens after that?

The operational life of Kelsey Creek Solar Farm will be between 25-30 years. After this time, the site will be rehabilitated and returned to its original purpose as freehold land. Solar Panels, structural framework, inverters, transformers etc will be recycled following applicable legislation. Any removal, recycling or decommissioning of the plant and ancillary equipment will be undertaken with zero environmental impact, maintaining the overall positive environmental impact of the project.