Approvals secured for solar farm

ON THE HORIZON: Sanjeev Gupta's promised $1 billion investment in renewable energy for South Australia has taken another step forward.
ON THE HORIZON: Sanjeev Gupta's promised $1 billion investment in renewable energy for South Australia has taken another step forward.

In a big step forward for British Billionaire Sanjeev Gupta's $1 billion, 1GW renewable energy program in South Australia, SIMEC Energy Australia's 280MW Cultana Solar Farm has won development approval.

The innovative $350 million project, which will be the size of 550 Adelaide Ovals, has been given the tick by Planning Minister Stephan Knoll.

Around 350 jobs will be generated during construction and 10 on-going positions will be created upon completion, with site works set to commence in October. Construction will take 12-15 months.

SIMEC Chief Executive Marc Barrington said the company would be aiming to achieve the best possible employment outcomes locally.

"Our Engineer, Procure and Construction (EPC) contractor will seek resources from the Whyalla area first, then the Upper Spencer Gulf region, followed by South Australians," he said.

"We have communicated widely within the local community on the employment possibilities available and encourage anyone interested in understanding the opportunities available to contact us.

"We'll also have an apprenticeship program once again targeting the local community, with the aim of taking these apprentices from construction into operations and maintenance."

Mr Barrington also addressed community concerns about the impact the new site may have on native vegetation in the area, saying the project had been designed to minimise its environmental impact.

"The proposed vegetation/habitat removal has been approved by the Native Vegetation Council and vegetation requiring trimming or removal will be progressively cleared," he said.

"An exclusion zone will be enforced around retained native vegetation to ensure the quality of this vegetation is not impacted by the development.

"Roadside vegetation screening will be retained and enhanced with additional planting, where required, to reduce the visual impact of the solar panels."

During the project SIMEC will undertake progressive revegetation of local native species. Construction of the solar farm is also not expected to impact on the Whyalla Conservation Park.

Mr Barrington described the approval as 'great news for the project, the local community and South Australian energy users'.

"It brings us one step closer to construction, creating potential jobs for local residents; and delivering lower, globally-competitive energy prices for South Australian consumers," he said.