Work finally begins on second Canberra solar farm at Mugga Lane

Work finally begins on second Canberra solar farm at Mugga Lane

Work is finally set to begin on the Mugga Lane solar farm, almost three years after Chinese company Zhenfa won an ACT government contract to supply solar power.

Just one of three solar farms to win contracts in the 2013 auction is operating to date – the Spanish-owned Royalla, which began producing solar power in September 2014. The third was held up in a dispute with Uriarra village residents and has moved sites to Williamsdale, with construction yet to begin.

Qiao Han, Maoneng group vice-president, at the Mugga Lane solar site.

Qiao Han, Maoneng group vice-president, at the Mugga Lane solar site.Credit:Graham Tidy

On Thursday, Environment Minister Simon Corbell launched construction of the 13 megawatt capacity solar farm on the corner of Mugga Lane and the Monaro Highway.

The contract was won by Chinese firm Zhenfa but last year, the Australian arm of Zhenfa was bought out by its Australian management team, which is now running it as Maoneng Group.

The site of the Mugga Lane solar farm.

The site of the Mugga Lane solar farm.Credit:Graham Tidy

Vice-president Qiao Han said Zhenfa was focused on the much bigger global market, including the United States, Japan and Saudi Arabia, whereas Maoneng would have a specific Australian focus.

He and other Australian managers felt "able to operate quite independently without the Chinese headquarter company overlooking us", he said.

The solar farm was to have been operating by the end of 2014. Mr Han said the delay was partly caused by the time taken to finalise the connection agreement to the grid.

With a contract now signed with ActewAGL for the grid connection, he expected panels to be installed in May or June, and the farm to be operational by the end of the year.

The farm would be built by UGL, using panels from China, and up to 30 people were expected to be employed at peak construction. Mr Han said once built, the farm would take just two people to run.

The project would now have 48,000 panels, rather than the 52,000 originally planned because of improvements in technology.

Mr Han said final adjustments were now being made to further reduce glare for Monaro Highway motorists.

Maoneng will use solar arrays that track the sun, and in its planning application, the company commissioned reports on glare for pilots and motorists and on bushfire risk.

The company will be paid $178 for each megawatt hour of electricity it produces over 20 years from October 2014, for a maximum of 24,596 megawatt hours, or $4.38 million. The Royalla owners are being paid $186 a megawatt hour.

Mr Corbell said the Mugga Lane farm would generate sufficient power for 3000 homes.

Last year, the company bought the land off the ACT government.

Kirsten Lawson is news director at The Canberra Times

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