Gold miner to build 60 MW solar farm on former evaporation ponds

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The Woodvale Evaporation Pond Complex could become home to a 60 MW solar farm. According to Australian miner GBM Gold, the disused site makes a compelling candidate for a PV plant due to high irradiation and proximity to Bendigo.

The complex comprises a facility of multiple evaporation ponds where groundwater was historically pumped as part of gold mining activities and associated dewatering processes. Woodvale was operational until 2016 when the state government made a decision to process groundwater through a water treatment plant. Originally, the site was planned to return to agriculture.

“Construction of a solar power plant, as an alternative to returning the site to agricultural use, can be implemented in a short timeframe giving immediate benefit to the entire Bendigo region,” GBM Gold says. The City of Greater Bendigo has a goal of 100% renewable energy generation from local and regional sources, and the Woodvale solar farm would be a significant step towards that goal.

The Woodvale Evaporation Pond Complex is located around 10km north of Bendigo and covers approximately 174 hectares of freehold land owned by GBM Gold. The company is planning significant rehabilitation works on the site, including removal of surficial contaminants (salts and metals) and removal of stockpiles of contaminants from a previous reconstruction.

“The work required to prepare the complex for the development of a solar project is less than that required to return it to agriculture,” the company says. “The ponds are designed to maximise the amount of sunlight impinging on them with only screening around the property.”

GBM Gold says the solar project will utilise Ponds 1A, 1B, 2, 3, 6 and 7 and the existing infrastructure at Woodvale. Pond 1A will be retained as a pond and operate as floating solar enabling containment of all rainfall on the site. Ponds 1B, 2, 3 and 7 will have their spillways removed so that they do not retain water. A standard solar system will be installed on these ponds.

As for initial steps, GBM Gold plans to engage the local community in further development of the solar project and see the proposal through the approval process with the City of Greater Bendigo and subsequent construction phase.

According to GBM Gold, local network operator Powercor has confirmed the 60 MW solar farm could be connected to the existing 66 kV sub-transition network in Bendigo at the Eaglehawk Zone Substation. A new substation will be built on rehabilitated Ponds 4 and 5. “This is a very promising outcome as grid connection is often one of the most costly and difficult aspects of power projects,” the miner says.