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Australian developer of utility scale solar projects, ESCO Pacific, has received planning consent for the development of a major solar farm near Townsville.

Townsville City Council recently voted in favour of the project, which will result in a 148MW solar farm being built on a disused mango plantation at Ross River.

ESCO Pacific managing director and founder Steve Rademaker said: “This is a fantastic outcome for the Townsville region. In addition to the considerable benefits of renewable energy generation, the project will create jobs and help develop the necessary skills in what is proving to be a growth industry for the region.

“The Townsville City Council has shown great vision in seeing the considerable opportunity and benefits associated with utility scale solar. We have worked closely with the Council and the local community to address the limited number of concerns raised by local residents.

“We are pleased with the final outcome which includes conditions to mitigate and protect visual amenity.

“Ross River is the first of a number of similar projects that we intend to develop over the coming years.

Townsville was selected as the ideal location for the solar farm because of the high solar irradiance in the region, and its average 320 days of sunshine annually. The site is in close proximity to the grid connection point at the Ross Bulk Supply Substation and is free from environmental constraints.

The solar farm will cover an area of 202 hectares and will comprise 450,000 photovoltaic modules or ‘solar panels’. The technology is identical to the millions of solar panels installed across residential roof tops across Australia. The solar panels will be installed on ground mounted frames that will slowly track the daily horizontal movement of the sun.

When operational, the solar farm will generate renewable energy to meet the annual power needs of approximately 54,000 average households.

The $250m project is expected to take 12 months to build, with work to commence in early 2017. Construction of the large-scale solar farm will create in excess of 150 construction jobs, and when operational, the facility will employ up to five full time and 10 part time positions.