Solar boost

By James Bennett

Four full-time and more than 300 temporary jobs are expected to be created in the local area with the construction of the Finley Solar Farm.

Signal Energy construction manager Kane Williams said the new facility is expected to be completed in October.

He said at the construction peak, expected to last three to four months, at least 350 employees will be required on site.

He said at other times the employment base for construction will average 150 people.

Mr Williams said Signal Energy has hired a sub-contractor to deliver the work on site, and employ the workers.

He said the sub-contractor has been given a directive to employ locals where possible.

It could also be an employment option for those who will be displaced following announcement of redundancies at the Deniliquin Rice Mill.

‘‘Once the solar farm in fully constructed there will be four full-time employees, and they will be hired locally,’’ Mr Williams confirmed.

‘‘There have been about 120 expressions of interest to work at the solar farm from locals, so there’s the potential for all of them to get hired in the construction phase.

‘‘With something like the Deniliquin Rice Mill closing down it opens up more opportunity. It’s better for our bigger sub-contractor to use locals because it’s cheaper, as they won’t need to pay for travel expenses and things like that.

‘‘The idea is to hire as many locals as possible who are willing to do the work.

‘‘There will be some people who have to come in (from out of the area) but that’s for more specialist trades.

‘‘This is my fourth solar farm in Australia and it’s so important to utilise locals; it’s good for the community and creates a good atmosphere.

‘‘They know the land, the town and the contacts. Many of the businesses we’ve hired already have been really helpful because they know what needs to be done out here.’’

Signal Energy has also earmarked using Finley TAFE to train young trade apprentices to service the solar farm into the future.

‘‘We’re still looking at options there,’’ Mr Williams said.

‘‘One idea is to target school leavers as labourers doing training through the TAFE.

‘‘We’re also looking at an electrical awareness course through Finley TAFE.

‘‘We’re trying to involve the community as much as we can.’’

Before the Christmas break, construction tasks included small civil works using local civil contractors.

Mr Williams said construction will ramp up again from Monday, January 7.

‘‘When we get back it will be pretty full on. The solar farm must be complete and operational by October 1 and we’re looking at having all panels on the structure by the end of May.

‘‘January to May is most likely when we’ll have the maximum number of people at the site.

‘‘After that most of the work requires specialist trades to do connections and other things.

‘As well as four people full-time on maintenance there will be times we need specialists to come in; for example to clean panels.’’

The $170 million Finley Solar Farm proposal was approved by the NSW Government in February.

It is located about six kilometres west of Finley, where about 500,000 solar panels will be constructed across about 300 hectares. They will have the ability to produce up to 170 megawatts of power.

It is expected to connect directly into the TransGrid 132kV, which is the high voltage transmission network that runs through the area.