Ratch Australia Corporation says it plans to start building the $100 million Collinsville Solar Farm by mid-year after securing an agreement with Alinta Energy for the energy retailer to purchase electricity and Large-scale Generation Certificates (LGCs) through to the end of 2030.
“This is a major milestone for the project as the power purchase agreement provides the revenue stream which underpins the project. We are pleased to further our relationship with Alinta Energy and help to support growth in their retail business,” Ratch executive general manager business development Anthony Yeates said.
“We are now in a position to finalise our construction and financing arrangements and to firm up the construction timetable, and expect to share this information with all relevant stakeholders as soon as possible. We expect pre-construction activities will take about three months so if all goes to plan we will break ground before June and have the first generation from the project by this time next year.”
Mr Yeates said engineering and construction of the 42MW solar farm would be contracted out to a tier one contractor which would be responsible for all subcontracting and purchasing.
They would be contractually required to provide clear pathways for local workers and suppliers to participate in the project, he said.
“We are in the process of finalising our debt financing arrangements at the moment, and once that is completed we will be able to get under way. This project has the potential to provide millions of dollars of investment in the Whitsunday region, create much needed jobs, and grow the order books of local companies, and we are very keen to get it commenced” he said.
“Local purchasing will include a wide range of products and services from fencing contractors, concreters, welders, electricians, plant and equipment operators, transport contractors and administrators.”
Ratch says the project will have a peak construction workforce of around 70 and employ two permanent staff once complete. Up to 20 staff will be required every six months to clean the solar panels.
The project site is near the old Collinsville coal-fired power station and will take advantage of existing electrical infrastructure including substations and Ergon Energy’s distribution network.
The planned solar farm will feature around 180,000 solar photovoltaic panels and supply power equivalent to the annual needs of 15,000 homes.
The Collinsville Solar Farm received approval from the Whitsunday Regional Council in 2013 and was awarded $9.5 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) in September 2016.
Whitsunday Regional Council mayor Andrew Willcox welcomed Ratch’s investment in the region.“This is great news for the Whitsundays, a major capital investment of nearly $100 million will have major economic significance to the region. It’s a new industry that will increase the diversity of the local economy and provide much needed employment opportunities for skilled and unskilled workers,” Cr Willcox said.
Ratch is also developing the 180MW Mount Emerald Wind Farm near Mareeba, which is due for completion in September next year.