When fences started going up around 69-year-old Gloria Badoco’s Yoogali farm, people thought the government were using her land to grow hemp.
In reality, she’s about to become landlady to Griffith’s largest clean energy venture. Her land will be used for a solar farm – with construction of 112,000 panels across 100 hectares to begin within weeks.
Multinational renewable energy company Neoen obtained a 30-year lease for use of Ms Badoco land, after securing a grant to launch their project through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s (ARENA) large-scale solar scheme.
Neoen won a competitive tendering process, in which there were 77 proposals that sought to benefit from the $100 million available funding. Called Griffith Solar Farm, it is expected to provide energy to around 11,000 homes in the area.
Warren Woo, Project Development Manager, visited the site yesterday to undertake a community consultation with contractors and developers.
“We expect the solar farm will employ a peak of 80 to 100 people, provide a source of clean energy for the local community, and protect the legacy of the land,” Mr Woo said.
Solar panels convert the sun's rays into electricity by exciting electrons in cells using particles of light from the sun. Mr Woo shared a few insights about solar energy that may surprise many people.
“Cooler weather is actually better for generating electricity than warmer,” he said.
Ms Badoco, who’s family has owned a farm in the area since 1924, said she was approached five years ago by Neoen with the offer to lease her land.
“The land was there, so I thought, why not? But the process was dragging on so long I wondered if it was ever going to happen,” she said.
When the project commenced, it aroused the curiosity of locals.
“It was quite funny. A couple of people in town asked me if the government was running a hemp farm there,” she said.
Neoen has contracted out the building of the solar panels to Bouygues Construction, which like Neoen was originally established in France.
In 2016, Photon Energy built and commissioned a small solar power plant which supplements the Leeton Waste Water Treatment plant. They have proposed the building of a bigger solar farm in the town.
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