Here comes the sun

FREMANTLE is a step closer to getting a solar farm at the old South Fremantle tip, with the council’s finance and policy committee approving a business plan last Wednesday.

Under the plan energy company Epuron would get a 25-year peppercorn lease on four lots totalling 79,767 sqm of the tip site to operate a 4.9MW solar array.

The council says that if the array starts to turn a significant profit, there’s scope to review the lease and raise Epuron’s rent.   

“The South Fremantle landfill site currently generates zero income for the city and environmental constraints mean permanent development, or use of the land for public purposes, are unlikely to be feasible for many year,” a report to the council found.

The business plan attracted 14 submissions from residents, with most being supportive. Those opposing the solar farm were dismissed as being related to environmental or public health concerns rather than the business model.

Local resident Marija Vujcic, who unsuccessfully ran for council at the last election, has started a Change.org petition against the solar farm, which has so far attracted 150 signatures.

“The solar farm is to be built on one of the worst polluted sites in this state,” Ms Vujcic wrote.

“The council has no plans to remediate prior to any construction or disturbance of the site.”

North Coogee resident John Paparone says he’s concerned about dust being disturbed during construction and the ugliness of the array.

“Basically there is a lot of other places rather than next to a beach and town to put up solar panels,” Mr Paparone told the Herald.

“That’s why they call it a solar farm.”

Neighbour Lyn Shipp says despite being contaminated, the old tip is a biodiversity hotspot because it attracts very little traffic.

“We’ve got cockies, snakes including giardia and dugites, herons, kestrels: It’s really a lot of birdlife.

As plans for the solar farm are solidified, energy authorities are grappling with how to regulate grid energy levels as solar output increases.

A Western Power spokesperson says it’s a “balancing act” between constant coal and gas energy with fluctuating solar and wind generated electricity.

“It’s just a different way of generating power. You only get power from solar platoons when the sun shines and wind energy when the wind blows, but coal churns and churns.

“So sometimes on a sunny day you have really high levels of solar power, but maybe people are using a lower level of energy at the same time.”

Western Power is developing projects to help manage the load production from solar so customers can get solar benefits outside of peak times.

by MOLLY SCHMIDT and STEVE GRANT

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