Mayor defends $4m plus initial cost of solar farm
SUNSHINE Coast mayor Mark Jamieson has defended the $4 million plus cost to ratepayers of acquiring a $770,000 flood prone block of land to develop a solar farm at Valdora.
Mr Jamieson said the solar farm would save ratepayers millions of dollars on electricity costs.
The Sunshine Coast Daily has been asking questions for weeks about the costs of the project, particularly the high cost of the land purchase.
The council last July estimated the cost of the project to be $24 million to $30 million. It said it hoped to save ratepayers $10 million over the next 30 years.
On the ABC today, Mr Jamieson revised that to $9 million.
Mr Jamieson defended the council's failure to consult with residents in the area, saying it was an area of 'many hundreds of acres' and "there are no properties nearby''.
When asked about the 400 homes overlooking the site, Mr Jamieson said they looked over a very large area and the greater good of all ratepayers could not be held up by local residents.
More than 120 residents met to discuss the issue this week but the council refused to send a representative.
Mr Jamieson denied the council had been secretive about the project, particularly the land costs.
The council paid $1.65million on May 1 for a flood-prone block of cane land that sold less than two years ago for just $770,000.
The 49 ha parcel of land off Coolum-Yandina Road was originally owned by the late Col Turner and his wife Lyn.
The Turners sold the property on September 9, 2012, to Gruenenergy after which it was immediately on sold for $1.1m to Akerman Enterprises acting as trustee for the Akerman Family Trust.
The two transactions are listed on the same document in a process known as transfer by direction.
Previously the council refused to answer questions about the costs, saying it was commercial in-confidence.
However, the council offered the Daily a response more than a week ago - but only on the basis that it was run as is, without any cross-checking of facts already known to the Daily.
The Daily refused to do so on council's terms so the mayor's PR people released the article to a free weekly magazine, My Weekly Preview, which was happy to run it, despite it being written by council staff.
The Daily's stories have not questioned the benefits of a solar farm, but rather the initial differences in land prices.
The Daily has obtained a series of documents (below) in relation to the land purchases.
In a statement released to the media, Mr Jamieson said the project would " take the Sunshine Coast closer to becoming Australia's most sustainable region.''
"I'm proud council has taken this smart, sensible and sustainable solution.
"I have released a detailed account of how the organisation has reached this position to dispel some misconceptions and inaccuracies about the project.
"Council's decision to approve it has been based on comprehensive, internal and external examinations of the proposal, which has resulted in an updated business case which differs greatly from the original (which has been cited to criticise the project).
"It's also important to note the overall cost of $4.156 million (including the $2.3m to cover the substantial cost to develop the project plan as well as the intellectual property, $1.5 million for the land, the $300,000 option and rent payments totalling $56,000) has been factored into the business case which shows council, and therefore ratepayers, will be way ahead - the savings will be many millions of dollars.
"The location of the land was critical and can't be over-emphasised.
"A substantial investigation revealed this plot had all the necessary characteristics to build a utility scale solar farm, including the fact it was located on a 33kv Energex line.
"Across the region there are very few land parcels that meet the criteria.
"This clearly placed the value of the land - as a potential site for a solar farm - much higher than other rural parcels of land, to which some people have tried to compare it. As the old real estate saying goes: location is everything.
"This is a decision our grandkids will thank us for. It's a financially responsible and environmentally sustainable."