SIMEC Energy Australia’s Cultana Solar Farm gains development approval

SIMEC Energy Australia, a South Australian electricity retailer in the National Electricity Market  and  member of Sanjeev Gupta’s global GFG Alliance, announced the news of securing development approval for the 280MW Cultana Solar Farm, one of the largest solar farms in Australia just outside of Whyalla.

With Development Approval secured, the Cultana Solar Farm project team continues to work toward financial close of the project, with final negotiations continuing ahead of an expected construction start in the second half of 2019.

SIMEC Energy Australia CEO Marc Barrington welcomed news of this important next step for the project and spoke of the benefits the delivered solar farm will provide for the region and energy users that partner with the company for their energy needs.

Marc Barrington, CEO, SIMEC Energy Australia said:

“Securing Development Approval is an important step in SIMEC Energy Australia’s work to deliver this important solar farm and provide globally competitive energy to Australia business and industry. Delivery of this new sustainable energy generation asset will also contribute to emissions reductions, sustainability objectives, and increase the overall reliability and security of electricity supply for users across the Upper Spencer Gulf region.”

 

Cultana Solar Project – Fast Facts

  • 280MW capacity
  • 780,000 solar panels
  • 1100 hectares in size
  • 550 times larger than Adelaide Oval
  • 600GWh of energy generation per year
  • Enough energy to power over 96,000 homes
  • Offsetting 492,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year
  • 350 direct jobs during the construction phase; 10 ongoing operation and maintenance positions
  • Upskilling of the indigenous and local workforce

The Cultana Solar Farm will be a large-scale solar farm that will generate up to 280 MW of solar energy on vacant land to the north of the Whyalla Steelworks. The energy generated will contribute to the national electricity grid via the existing ElectraNet Cultana substation and is part of SIMEC Energy Australia’s mission to bring change and competition to the wholesale and retail electricity market.

When completed, the 280MW Cultana Solar Farm will be 550 times the size of Adelaide Oval and is forecast to produce around 600GWh of energy per year, which is enough to power almost 100,000 homes.

In addition to being one of Australia’s largest solar farms in planning, the project is designed to deliver a range of benefits to the local community, grid and environment throughout its life, from construction through to energisation and ongoing operation. In particular, the project is set to a provide a jobs boom for the region, with up to 350 positions expected to be on offer during construction and a further 10 on-going jobs after the solar farm is complete and operational.

SIMEC Energy Australia CEO Marc Barrington has reaffirmed the company’s commitment to a ‘local first’ approach in fulling these positions, aiming to maximise the benefits for the local Whyalla community. Speaking on this topic, Mr Barrington said:

“We’ll prioritise locals first, however if we can’t find or train the requisite skills, we’ll then prioritise the broader Upper Spencer Gulf area, then expand out across South Australia, ensuring our employees are predominantly South Australian based.”

Not withstanding the significance of the 492,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide the solar farm’s operation is forecast to offset every year over its operational life, SIMEC Energy Australia is also committed to delivering the project with the least amount of environmental impact possible on the solar farm site itself.

Most significantly, as part of the initial planning process SIMEC Energy Australia amended the layout and construction methods of the farm to ensure that the amount of native vegetation requiring removal was almost halved, from an original proposed removal of 871ha down to 448ha. SIMEC Energy will also pay $3.4 million to the Native Vegetation Fund, which helps restore, revegetate and protect vegetation across South Australia.

The project team have also included several other features to minimise site environmental impacts of the solar farm, including:

  • proposed vegetation and habitat removals have been approved by the Native Vegetation Council,
  • an exclusion zone will be enforced around retained native vegetation to ensure the quality of this vegetation is not impacted,
  • roadside vegetation screening will be retained, and enhanced with additional planting where required, to reduce the visual impact of the solar panels,
  • revegetation will take place progressively and will occur with local native species with the aim of restoring or enhancing the existing ecosystem quality and maintaining habitat corridors.

As part of on-site pre-works, SIMEC Energy Australia also worked with Succession Ecology Australia to conduct a flattening trial on the site vegetation, designed to provide even further benefits for vegetation and dust suppression. Through this innovative approach, SIMEC Energy Australia was able to assist the team from Succession Ecology Australia to identify a new way to flatten native vegetation which reduces the effects of dust on site during construction, and reduces the long-term problems associated with disturbing the soil crust.

Cultana Solar Farm Project Manager Sturt Daley spoke of SIMEC Energy Australia’s satisfaction in being part of this successful trial, and the outcomes it will provide for the site and the local community.

“This is a fantastic outcome for the local environment, and the community around the Cultana Solar Farm. By working with Succession Ecology Australia, we’ve been able to find a way to work with the local vegetation where possible, rather than remove it. By doing this across the site, we are able to maximise the long-term ecology of the site, minimise disturbance to the local soil crust, and reduce the likelihood of dust issues during construction or operation. This is a fantastic outcome for the local environment, and we are happy to be playing a role in this important environmental trial.”

The Cultana Solar Farm is the important first project of SIMEC Energy Australia’s landmark US$1 billion, one‐gigawatt dispatchable renewable energy program in the Upper Spencer Gulf.


Source: Press Release by SIMEC Energy Australia. Phot Credit: SIMEC Energy Australia.