Got a question? Read through our list of frequently asked questions to see if we have an answer.
How much electricity will the solar farm produce?
The solar farm will provide up to 300,000 MW/h of clean, zero-emission electricity every year – enough to power approximately 54,000 houses across QLD every year.
Where is the solar farm being built?
The project will be built on a disused mango farm approximately 20km south east of Townsville. This location is well suited to a solar farm, with high levels of sunlight and close proximity to the existing electricity grid.
How many panels will the solar farm use to generate energy?
The solar farm will use around 417,000 crystalline solar photovoltaic modules, known more commonly as solar panels. These panels are identical in type but larger in size to those used on household rooftops throughout Australia.
Who is building the solar farm?
Construction of the solar farm is being managed by Ross River Operations, supported by key project management personnel from both ESCO Pacific and Palisade, an Australian-based infrastructure specialist with experience in the development of clean energy projects. Downer Utilities has been appointed as the lead construction contractor.
How long will construction take?
Construction has started and is expected to take 12 months.
How long will the solar farm operate?
Once complete, the solar farm is expected to operate for up to 40 years. After this time, the plant will either be refurbished for further use or fully decommissioned.
Will the project be expanded in the future given there is nearby land?
No, it is not expected that the project will be expanded in the future given the land based constraints.
Jobs and Investment
How is the project being funded?
The project will be funded through equity commitments from Palisade’s recently-launched Palisade Renewable Energy Fund and three of Palisade’s institutional clients, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), VicSuper and HESTA. Major energy retailer, EnergyAustralia, has entered into a 13-year power purchase agreement for 80 percent of all electricity generated by Ross River Solar Farm.
Will the development create lower power prices for residents?
New utility-scale solar projects like Ross River Solar Farm can reduce the strain on the electricity network, particularly at times of high demand. This in turn, can help to reduce wholesale prices for electricity. Households and businesses may see a positive impact on their energy costs if energy retailers opt to pass on these reductions to customers.
What type of jobs would be created during construction?
Around 250 jobs will be created during the construction with a further five full time and ten part time ongoing jobs available once the solar farm is operating.
Jobs will include surveyors, engineers, civil contractors, metal fabricators, electricians, fencing, security and telecommunications specialists, builders and general labourers.
Once the solar farm is operating, further ad hoc local activity will continue throughout the life of the project.
Will there be any opportunities for local business?
Yes, we actively encourage the use of local labour and trades wherever possible. To register your interest in helping to build the solar farm, contact us.
Will you be providing sponsorship?
We believe it’s important to support the local community in which we will be operating. The operators of Ross River Solar Farm will establish a Community Grant Fund, to direct community funding to suitable organisations up to $20,000 per annum.
How does the solar farm generate power?
The solar panels will be installed on ground-mounted frames that will slowly track the daily movement of the sun. Using the solar energy they absorb, the solar panels then generate electricity that will be fed into an onsite power reticulation system via power condition units before being dispatched to the local electricity distribution network via the Ross River Bulk Supply Substation.
Where do the solar panels come from?
Solar panels at Ross River Solar Farm will come from China, the world’s largest producer of high quality solar panels.
Is the project battery-ready?
Currently energy storage is not economically viable without grant funding for a project of this scale. The storage of energy using batteries is therefore not proposed at this stage.
How often do you have to upgrade the technology?
Once constructed, it is not proposed that the technology would be upgraded. With regular maintenance, the solar farm is expected to operate for up to 40 years.
Will the solar farm be a heavy user of water?
We have identified sustainable, cost effective sources of water for all onsite water needs, including dust mitigation and watering of vegetation buffers.
The bulk of water used onsite will be sourced from two existing bores that were established to support the mango farm and remain operational. No new bores will be established on the site. In the instance additional water is required, this will be pre-authorised, purchased and brought on to site.
What about glint and glare?
The potential for glare from a solar farm must be demonstrated before it can be built. ‘Worst case scenario’ glare modelling to map the likelihood of glare occurring shows that the occurrence of glare is unlikely.
In addition, a vegetation ‘buffer’ will be planted along parts of the solar farm to reduce the visual impact on neighbours.
Is the project a risk to local agriculture or waterways?
The materials used in the production of the solar panels are non-toxic. Any modules that require replacement during the operational lifetime of the solar farm will be recycled.
Panels will be mounted on frames with screw pile foundations, making site remediation at the end of the operational life straightforward. This means that when the project is decommissioned, the land can easily be returned to agricultural use.
Sediment runoff during construction will be considered in the civil design and controlled to prevent any impact on surrounding local waterways.
Is there any noise?
Operating solar panels emit no noise.
Inverter units onsite that will convert power from DC to AC will comply with all noise emission standards. While they do emit a noise that is audible if you were standing next to a unit, noise levels will be so low they are unlikely to be heard outside the solar farm’s boundary.
Construction is expected to generate some forms of temporary noise that may impact neighbours. To avoid this, heavy construction machinery will primarily be operated between the approved hours of 6.30am to 6.30pm Monday to Saturday.
Are there any visual impacts and if so how will this be managed?
Given the low profile of its solar panels, Ross River Solar Farm will have minimal impact on the existing landscape character.
Panels will be no more than three metres in height. No high voltage transmission lines are planned as part of this development.
A 3-metre deep natural planting screen is proposed for the Southern and Northern boundary and will screen the project from ground views as it grows.
Once the proposed boundary vegetation has matured the solar farm will be less visible than the existing electricity transmission infrastructure located along the eastern boundary of the site.
How will you manage dust?
Some levels of dust are expected to be produced during construction activities, particularly site clearing. A dust management strategy has been developed specifically to reduce dust emissions and to largely contain any dust that is caused to within the construction site. Measures to manage dust include water trucks working closely with ground clearing machinery, sealing of main site roads once constructed and dust monitoring. In addition, our principal contractor, Downer Utilities’ Site Management team is monitoring wind movements and adjusting works accordingly, including ordering temporary stop works when winds are likely to be strong.
Are there plans to regrow any vegetation under the solar panels?
A form of suitable vegetation will be selected and sown once the solar farm is constructed. A benefit of this will be lower fire risk and lower weed presence over the longer term, reducing the need for ongoing chemical weed treatment. Use of invasive species, such as Indian Couch grass, will not be planted onsite given its potential to cause issues for neighboring agricultural and livestock operations.
What are you doing to manage weeds?
Wide-scale weed spraying will not be employed, rather spot treatment of weeds will be carried out on an as needs basis.
Will you maintain the vegetation buffer once it is planted?
Yes. Trees and shrubs within the 3 metre deep vegetation buffer will be mulched and watered to ensure a high rate of survival. Any plants that don’t thrive will be replaced.
Will there be any local traffic impacts?
Site entry will be from Kelso Drive, close to the intersection with Round Mountain Road. To accommodate vehicles coming to and from the site, a new site entrance will be constructed.
There will be increased traffic movements during construction but this will be in accordance with an agreed Traffic Management Plan. Once the solar farm is operational there will be limited additional traffic movements in the local area.
Pre and post construction dilapidation surveys will be carried out to ensure that any damage to roads or infrastructure attributed to the construction of the solar farm is remediated.