The site of the proposed solar farm just west of Mirani.
The site of the proposed solar farm just west of Mirani. Mackay Regional Council

Controversial solar farm could be months away

A CONTROVERSIAL solar farm vindicated by a Brisbane court may not break ground for at least another six to nine months, as the company rejoins Mackay Regional Council at the discussion table and waits for Mackay Sugar to decide if they will appeal the decision.

The Mirani solar farm project is expected to be approved by the council after Planning and Environment Court Judge Richard Jones ruled it should never have been blocked.

It was the first solar farm development appeal to be heard in that court.

The solar farm is a 40-year project that will cover about 165 hectares of cane land about 2.5km northwest of Mirani. It is expected to create about 100 jobs.

ESCO Pacific head of development Allison Hawke said the judgment was a positive one, but there was much work to go before sods were turned.

"ESCO Pacific, in its site selection process, did consider it important to try and avoid good quality agricultural land before we landed on this site," she said.

"There's still a long way to go. Now we need to focus on our completing our grid connection process and lining up a lead contractor for construction. "It won't be in the next six months, as there is a detailed process beyond the planning approval, which we will be busy working on."

This time period could be pushed out if Mackay Sugar decides to appeal the court decision.

Mackay Sugar, whose concern about the loss of good farm land was instrumental in council's rejection of the project, said it is currently reviewing the decision and will hold discussions with the council before determining whether to lodge an appeal. It has 30 days to do so.

Judge Jones, in his decision, said that there was an absence of evidence the 60MW project would damage the sugar industry or viability of local mills. He ruled the council's refusal must be set aside.