ONE of Australia's biggest solar generating plants will be built near Gympie over the next four years, creating 450 construction jobs, 12 permanent operational positions and major business opportunities for the region.
Gympie Regional Council threw the switch to give the $2 billion Lower Wonga solar farm project a green light at its general meeting at Gympie town hall this morning.
An enthusiastic Gympie Mayor Mick Curran told Wednesday's council general meeting the solar electricity plant would be the largest in Australia.
It is a title which may not last, following federal approval for one five times as big on the Darling Downs, but that was no problem for councillors or proponents at the meeting.
Generating 350 megawatts from 2 million solar panels, it will still be many times larger than the 15MW Yandina facility at the Sunshine Coast.
And this capacity would quickly rise to 800MW "with battery storage" over the next four years, proponent Scott Armstrong said outside the meeting.
Councillors unanimously backed the project, with the only objections being to council conditions to be imposed under a six-two vote.
The two against, Crs Glen Hartwig and James Cochrane, made it clear their opposition was only to council condition, which they said were too onerous.
"It is over-conditioned," Cr Hartwig said, citing particularly a 50m environmental buffer zone on either side of a mostly dry creek which he said was really a "glorified gully."
Councillors were told conditions would deal also with neighbours' concerns about glare "at certain times of day and at certain times of year."
"We don't think any glare is acceptable," a council planner reported.
Mr Armstrong said he and fellow prompters Alex Armstrong and Stuart Border intended to spend $2 billion getting the project into operation.
Construction would take four years, which would allow "continuous construction work, so we're not constantly mobilising and demobilising."
This would allow workers to complete traineeships and apprenticeships during the construction phase.
And the near-Gympie location was a unique advantage, not only because of its proximity to the massive south-east Queensland market and customers in Wide Bay.
"The whole aim with an energy plant is to be as close as possible to the customers,so you reduce energy transmissions losses and costs.
"But we are also close to a workforce.
"We don't need fly in-fly out, we have Gympie," he said.
Mr Armstrong described himself as an "energy sector expert."
"I'm a sparky and an engineer and an economist and those are all necessary skills for a project like this," he said.
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