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  • Gavin King

    Tropic Now editor

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    Game-changing solar farm to power a small local town

    Construction will start next month on a massive $42.5 million solar panel and battery storage project near Lakeland in what is being hailed a world-leading project.

    When it comes to solar power, this is an altogether surprising game-changer.

    And it's happening right here in Tropical North Queensland.

    Construction of a $42.5 million solar and storage project will begin within weeks near Lakeland, north of Cairns, in an announcement that has surprised many and seemingly come out of the blue (sky).

    The Lakeland Solar and Storage project features 41,440 solar panels capable of powering the equivalent of 3000 homes day and night.

    It's the largest project of its kind in the Asia-Pacific and utilises large-scale battery storage to feed "consistent, quality power" into the existing electricity grid.

    The project is being constructed on a 60 hectare site by one of the world's biggest solar companies Conergy, along with funding from the Federal Government and partnerships with BHP Billiton, Ergon Energy and Origin Energy.

    Conergy managing director David McCallum said construction would begin in September with civil and mechanical works, with the project set to be operational by mid-next year.

    "Utility-scale solar and storage, combined with effective management software, is the Holy Grail of the global renewable energy industry, and with this project we are well within reach of it," he said.

    "This is an exciting opportunity to combine the latest developments in solar technology with utility-scale battery storage to feed consistent, quality power into the existing electricity grid."

    The project will create 50 positions during construction phase and 10 ongoing jobs during its 20‐year operational phase.

    The Federal Government's Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is providing $17.4 million in funding for the project.

    ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the landmark project would use solar energy stored in batteries to power the small town of Lakeland for several hours a day during its testing phase.

    "We know that battery storage will play a critical role in our future energy systems," Mr Frischknecht said.

    "The benefit of adding batteries to solar farms is simple; they store energy from the sun for use at peak times and overnight.

    "They can also smooth solar energy output on cloudy days.

    "The global energy transition is happening faster than many anticipated and Australia is well placed to be a key player.

    "Our growing expertise in integrating renewables and batteries could readily translate into economic opportunities including export dollars in world markets."

    Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch applauded the announcement today.

    "Effective battery storage has been the challenge for a long time, but what we’re seeing here, in a Southern Hemisphere‐first, is integration of large‐scale solar PV and battery storage," Mr Entsch said.

    "Having batteries to effectively store the energy from the sun that is captured during the daytime, for use at night, peak times and during cloudy periods, is a game‐changer."