Developer drives ahead with solar farm plan for Victorian coal country


ARP Australian Solar has applied to the Victorian Government for development approval for the $105 million Morwell Solar Farm, which will comprise a 70 MW solar PV facility with a 5-30 MW battery storage system to be constructed during stage two of the project.

In its application, ARP said an estimated 230,000 solar PV modules will be installed on a 170-hectare site just south of Morwell in the Latrobe Valley. The facility is expected to generate enough electricity to power 23,000 average Victorian households a year, saving more than 146,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.

The solar farm will be spread across two sites located less than one kilometre from the defunct coal-fired Hazelwood Power Station. The sites will link via an underground cable and the solar farm will connect to the grid via another underground cable to the nearby Morwell Terminal Station.

ARP director George Hughes said the company had identified the site three years ago and proximity to the grid and associated infrastructure was one of the main reasons for choosing the location.

“Latrobe Valley’s legacy of coal-fired power generation has left an abundance of grid connection infrastructure in the district,” he said.

“The site has been chosen due to its proximity to the Morwell Terminal Station which is where the point of connection will be made.”

The Latrobe Valley has long been considered the heart of Victoria’s coal country and is home to four coal-fired power stations including the decommissioned Hazelwood, Loy Yang A, Loy Yang B and Yallourn.

The Hazelwood Power Station is being demolished.

Image: Engie

Hazelwood was shuttered in 2017 and its demolition is expected to be complete by 2023. Owner Energie also operates the Loy Yang B power station while AGL owns Loy Yang A and Energy Australia owns Yallourn. AGL has flagged closing its facility by 2048, while Energy Australia has set a closing date of 2032.

Hughes said the Morwell Solar Farm would help “fill the void” left by the decommissioned coal-fired power stations.

“The Latrobe Valley area has played a key role in Victoria’s power generation and ARP wish to continue this with producing modern, clean, green renewable power,” he said.

“Hazelwood has been switched off, and Yallourn will be switched off, this is a much-needed development, we need many of these projects to fill the gap left by coal-fired power stations.”

Hughes said the solar farm would also help hit the Victorian Renewable Energy Target in which calls for 50% of the state’s electricity to be supplied from renewables by 2030.

“The project will have a substantially positive impact on the environment and the local area and we believe it will be great for the Latrobe Valley,” he said.

Grazing is set to continue if the Morwell Solar Farm goes ahead

Image: Neoen

The proposed sites are currently being used for grazing and it’s expected this will continue should the project go ahead.

“We’re looking to have as little impact as possible and work with what is already there,” Hughes said when the project was first mooted.

“We don’t want to remove any agricultural productive land, so we looked for grazed land and identified a site which is grazed and will continue to be grazed throughout the life of the project.

“Sheep can be beneath the panels. That is very important, not removing the land from production.”

Hughes said he hoped the approvals would be finalised by August for construction to start early next year. It is expected the solar farm will create about 100 jobs in the 12-month construction period as well as a number of part-time jobs once it was operational.

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