Cool response to council plan for solar farm at Lucas Heights

A solar farm in the ACT. Picture:  Andrew Meares
A solar farm in the ACT. Picture: Andrew Meares

A proposal that Sutherland Shire Council establish a solar farm at Lucas Heights is heading for the scrapheap.

A cool response from various authorities has prompted council staff to recommend the idea not proceed further.

A decision is due to be made at the council meeting on October 15.

In June this year, the council supported a motion by Cr Steve Simpson to examine the idea of becoming an electricity generator.

Under the plan, the council would not directly consume the energy, but would sell it to the grid, with proceeds offsetting the council’s rising electricity costs.

A former council night soil site on Crown land next to the ANSTO facility was the preferred location.

​The council agreed to ask the state government and Ausgrid whether the Crown land would be available, whether the local electricity network could support connection of a solar farm and whether ANSTO was interested in a partnership. 

A report to be considered by the council at its October 15 meeting said a formal reply was still awaited from ANSTO, but informal discussions indicated disinterest in purchasing power from a solar farm or a direct partnership with the council on the matter.

NSW Crown Lands advised, in its opinion, a solar farm was a major change from the council’s existing licensed use as a night soil depot and, consequently, the proposed change in use would need to be subject to a competitive tender process.

Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair reiterated the NSW Crown Lands position, while adding “other parties have expressed an interest in the site”.

The report said responses also indicated there were several unknown costs associated with the proposal that had significant potential to impact on the economic viability of the project

“Given the position of the minister and agencies and having regard to the risks and unknown costs of the project, it is recommended that council not proceed at this time,” the report said.

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