One down, 34,999 photovoltaic panels to go at Williamsdale Solar Farm
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One down, 34,999 photovoltaic panels to go at Williamsdale Solar Farm

Williamsdale Solar Farm site crews got a helping hand from ACT politicians on Tuesday to erect the first photovoltaic panels on site.

In hard hats and high visibility vests, Planning Minister Mick Gentleman and ACT Greens members Shane Rattenbury and Caroline Le Couteur lifted the 20kg cell onto the galvanised steel foundations which cover 29 hectares of farmland adjacent to the Monaro Highway.

ACT Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury, Planning Minister Mick Gentleman and Daniel Radford lifting panels at the Williamsdale solar farm.

ACT Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury, Planning Minister Mick Gentleman and Daniel Radford lifting panels at the Williamsdale solar farm.Credit:Ricky Fuller

The 2.5 metre high structure is designed to pivot throughout the day to maximise energy absorption as the sun travelled east to west.

Once completed it requires no on-site staff to operate and is estimated to deliver roughly 22,000-megawatt hours of output each year - enough electricity to power 3,600 homes.

Photo by Jamila Toderas Impact Investment CEO Chris Lock, and ActewAGL Strategic project services manager Ed Gaykema.

Photo by Jamila Toderas Impact Investment CEO Chris Lock, and ActewAGL Strategic project services manager Ed Gaykema. Credit:Jamila Toderas

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"This stage of construction represents a significant step in the solar farm's progress to completion, as well as the ACT's progress towards its 100 per cent renewable energy target by 2020 - the most ambitious target of any mainland Australian state or territory," Mr Gentleman said.

Director of Melton Contractors and project manager, Glenn Melton, said 35,000 Trina Solar cells, imported from China, had to be installed before the site went live.

"All going well with the substation we expect to deliver power to the grid around the 20th-25th of November with testing and tidying up to go into December," he said.

Mr Melton light weight structure had minimal impact on the land as everything could be removed and recycled without disruption.

Landscaping is planned for the site's edge near the Monaro Highway but Mr Melton said the public should have no concerns about glare.

"The panels are designed to absorb sunlight so they reflect less sunlight than a tree," he said. "The only thing that's going to shine on it is the galvanised steel structure until it starts dulling."

Impact Investment Group chief executive Chris Lock said the project was the largest within the group's $100 million solar income fund which has been provided a $50 million debt facility by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

"Today does make a pretty special day for us because of the very tight time frame and the challenges we have had, particularly with weather," he said.

"We have 35,000 more panels to lay but it really does mean we are on the home stretch."

Ms Lock said more than 100 co-investors joined the group's solar income fund within four days a insight into the keen support for project of this type.

Mr Rattenbury said it was inspiring to see the ACT, a small jurisdiction, make a large impact and lead the country in the renewables sector.

"One of the problems that has afflicted the solar and renewables industry more generally has been changing government policy," he said. "Here in the ACT, through a consistent approach, we have been able to see a lot of investment taking place which is providing clean energy but also a steady supply of investment and jobs."

Williamsdale, the third large scale solar farm to be constructed under the ACT's 40MW solar auction, will safeguard energy consumers in the capital.

"The way the government has structured the contracts Canberra is getting fixed priced electricity for the next 20 years. So while there is some increase in the short term, over time the ACT is going to be very well protected against changing energy prices."