COUNCIL has approved a $200 million solar-energy project that's set to transform a rural area near Pittsworth.
With five of 11 councillors absent for this afternoon's Development Assessment Panel, a pared-back group voted in favour of the Yarranlea Solar project, a utility-scale photovoltaic solar plant planned about 45km away from Toowoomba.
Mayor Paul Antonio and councillors Megan O'Hara Sullivan, Nancy Sommerfield, Bill Cahill, Carol Taylor are absent and did not take part in the debate which focused on screening and light issues. Councillor Mike Williams was the lone voice of dissent at the Toowoomba Regional Council offices.
The project will have the potential to generate about 100MW of electricity, powering 32,000 homes and contributing to the Australian government's climate policy.
It will take about one year to construct and will include a 1.8ha vegetation buffer to the perimeter of the site, an electrical substation and 400,000 solar panels on mounting structures across the site.
It is designed to produce electricity for about 30 years.
About 200 construction jobs will be created and five full time positions during operation.
Director Nick Canto has previously said there were employment opportunities for skilled and unskilled labourers.
He said the industry had been buoyed by the government's commitment to renewable energy and the cost-effectiveness of solar power generation.
The Yarranlea Solar project did not win support from a recent round of government funding, but Mr Canto said it was not needed.
Mr Canto said he envisioned about eight major solar farms would be built on the Darling Downs, citing a lack of capacity and demand for further developments.
Construction could start by July next year.
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