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Williamsdale Solar Farm Officially Opens

Williamsdale Opening - RE Trail sign.png

The ACT government put the finishing touches on its mammoth "solar highway" project on Thursday afternoon with the unveiling of 36,000 solar panels at Williamsdale.

Climate Change Minister Shane Rattenbury said the long-awaited Williamsdale Solar Farm, about 20 kilometres south of Canberra's city centre, could on its own generate enough electricity to power 3,000 homes.

"The clean power generated by the Williamsdale Solar Farm takes us another significant step towards achieving our target of 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2020 in the ACT."

The four solar farms were capable of generating 85,500 megawatt hours of electricity every year, enough to power more than 11,000 homes.

According to ACT government estimates, the solar farms could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.4 million tonnes over the next 20 years.

"The ACT is establishing itself as a world leader when it comes to investment in renewable energy and action on climate change," Mr Rattenbury said.

"Already, renewable energy has driven around $500 million of investment into the local economy."

The ACT government has faced its share of challenges to get the solar highway project over the line.

Elementus Energy began the project in 2013 on the back of a 20-year government commitment to provide tariff support payments worth a maximum of $2.3 million every year.

But Elementus encountered fierce resistance to its planned site near Uriarra Village, eventually leading to the announcement in 2015 that it would move to blocks at Williamsdale.

The Impact Investment Group then took over the project in 2016, agreeing to acquire and develop it for "up to $35 million".

Lane Crockett, the fund manager's head of renewable energy, said on Thursday that the Williamsdale project would deliver environmental and economic benefits.

"The smartest investors and developers in the country aren't trying to eke another few years out of old unreliable, polluting coal-fired infrastructre," he said.

"They are building the clean generators that will deliver reliable electricity, crucial environmental benefits, health benefits and attractive financial returns.

"Meanwhile, our investors have confidence knowing that the ACT government has committed to buying the farm's electricity for 20 years."

The opening of the Williamsdale Solar Farm was announced on the same day the Climate Council think tank released a report on Australia's renewable energy sector.

The report found that political inertia was the only barrier preventing Australia from revamping its ageing power grid with renewable energy.

"The nation's leading energy experts, scientists and major authorities are all in agreement - Australia is ready to switch to a modern grid, powered by renewables and storage," Climate Council chief executive Amanda McKenzie said.

In another report released on Thursday, the International Energy Agency found that the uptake of solar power had grown faster than any other source of fuel for the first time ever.

The ACT government has legislated a target of generating 100 per cent of the territory's electricity through renewable sources by 2020.

"By 2020 that ACT will produce 100 per cent of our electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar and, by 2050 at the latest, our city will produce zero net greenhouse gas emissions," Mr Rattenbury said.

Williamsdale Solar Farm is a part of SERREE's Renewable Energy Trail. Click here to learn more about the Trail, and to book a Guided Tour of the diversity of renewable energy infrastructure located across the ACT and South East NSW Region.

Source: Canberra Times

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