Williamsdale solar highway projected now completed

LAUNCHED: Impact investment Group's Lane Crockett at the opening of the new 11 megawatt Williamsdale Solar Farm which will power about 3000 Canberra homes. PHOTO: Rohan Thomson
LAUNCHED: Impact investment Group's Lane Crockett at the opening of the new 11 megawatt Williamsdale Solar Farm which will power about 3000 Canberra homes. PHOTO: Rohan Thomson

The ACT government put the finishing touches on its mammoth "solar highway" project last week 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 3000 homes.

Solar farms in Mount Majura, Mugga Lane and Royalla complete the "solar highway", which now totals a combined 177,000 panels along a 50 kilometre stretch.

"The future is here and it is clean, green and renewable," Mr Rattenbury said as the Williamsdale Solar Farm was officially opened.

"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 took over the project in 2016. The group’s Lane Crockett said the Williamsdale project would deliver environmental and economic benefits. 

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