Bright outlook

January 03, 2018

Maizie Willmott, front, and cafe proprietor Nancye Cowper, may be serving up more coffees when the solar farm construction begins.

The newest solar farm proposal is for property in Kaarimba Rd recently used for grazing.

Wunghnu boasts that it is the smallest sheep station in Australia ('one ewe', for those who don't get the pun). That may be the case, but it is about to become the biggest solar power generator in the region.

Business owners are hoping the new solar developments will give the town an economic lift.

Wunghnu businesses have welcomed news of a $100million solar farm to be built to the west of the town.

It comes only months after a French company announced it had purchased land for a solar farm on the east side of the community.

The town of 500 people recently lost its only fuel station and has only a few businesses.

For many people travelling Goulburn Valley Hwy it is just a brief interruption on their journey from Melbourne to Queensland.

The community has seized on a play of pronunciation of the town’s name to advertise itself as ‘‘one ewe’’ — Australia’s smallest sheep station.

During the past few weeks the town has been coming to grips with the fact that two international companies will invest almost $200million in two solar farms on former farm properties.

French company Neoen is building its 100MW farm in Wunghnu East Rd and Spanish company X-Elio wants to build a 102MW farm at the corner of Kaarimba Rd and Rileys Pit Rd.

While the latest development was announced by Moira Shire just before Christmas, the community has been talking about it for weeks.

Joint proprietor of 1 U Cafe, Nancye Cowper, said the news sounded good and she hoped it would bring some money into the town.

She also hoped the new solar farm would help bring power prices down.

‘‘It’s interesting that Wunghnu is going to be the centre of something so high-tech.

‘‘I hope it will create some passing trade. If we get more business we can employ more locals.’’

Wunghnu mechanic Noel Rathbone is also hoping the new developments bring new business into town.

Mr Rathbone, who runs Wunghnu Service and Repair Centre, said the activity should be good for the area.

‘‘Hopefully they will get their food here and spread the business around.

‘‘It’s just a pity the profits will be going overseas,’’ he said, in a reference to the multinational companies.

‘‘But it still should be good for the power grid.’’

Curiously, Mr Rathbone is about to open a new bed-and-breakfast venue in the main street, which has the town’s first roof-top solar power generator.

Nine Mile House is a mud brick dwelling formerly owned by the McGorlicks and once used as a restaurant.

Darryl and Yasmine O’Connor run the licensed post office and general store, and are also hoping the multi-million-dollar developments will have a positive impact on the town.

‘‘I hope they can employ people and down the track they might be able to give us cheaper electricity,’’ Mr O’Connor said.

Moira CEO: solar farm would help local economy

Moira Shire chief executive officer Mark Henderson said the new Wunghnu site consisted of 270ha which would house more than 200000 solar panels, producing about 102MW of power.

‘‘X-Elio Australia Pty Ltd is a Spanish-based company which specialises in the development of solar farms.

‘‘They have constructed solar farms across the world including Japan, South America, the Middle East, USA and Mexico,’’ Mr Henderson said.

‘‘The proposed solar farm will help to diversify the local and regional economy and strengthen Moira’s reputation as a council that embraces renewable energy investment.

‘‘Conditions will be set out to ensure a 10m-wide landscaping buffer will minimise visual impact around the solar farm.’’

Mr Henderson said the electricity produced on site would connect back into the grid and provide improved energy security for Numurkah, Cobram and Yarrawonga.

‘‘Local tradespeople wherever possible will be used to construct and install the solar panels and ancillary facilities,’’ he said.

‘‘After the initial construction period, X-Elio will employ staff to maintain the land, including slashing grass, eradicating weeds and vermin, managing the landscape buffer and general maintenance of the project.’’

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