WITHIN the next two weeks every light, fan and television switched on in the Normanton region will be powered by the Normanton Solar Farm.
Doug and Lyn Scouller own and manage the 90 hectare property just south of Normanton, of which about 15ha makes up the power station.
With 16,800 individual panels installed by local contractors including the local Indigenous labour hire group, both Mr and Ms Schouller said it was an incredible feeling to know the facility would soon be generating 100 per cent of Normanton’s daytime electricity.
The solar farm is currently supplying about 60pc of the Normanton sub-station’s load. The remaining 40pc will be switched on within a fortnight. Last week, electricity from the facility also hit the export market.
Mr Scouller moved to the region in 2003 to retire, but ended up building the End of The Road motel in Karumba which opened in 2006.
Over the past ten years, Mr Scouller, an electrician by trade, noticed his monthly power bills at the motel gradually rise from an average of $800 each month to a whopping $4000.
With Normanton’s power previously sourced from Townsville, he said major inefficiencies in the line were bumping up power prices.
“It's the old story of the longer the extension lead, the less power you get at the end - and that's all transmission lines are - just extension leads,” he said.
It was then the plan for the Normanton Power Station was born as an attempt to decentralise power generation and avoid the losses on long lines.
You just needed a bit of land, and heaps of sunlight - and that's what we've got.
“I didn’t necessarily pick solar because I'm a tree hugger or a greenie - it's just that we needed generation out here, and you don't build a timber house if you live in a stoney desert - you use the resources you have, and this north west region has been recognised as one of the great solar resources in Australia,” he said.
“You just needed a bit of land, and heaps of sunlight - and that's what we've got.”
While Ergon is still providing the night time electricity, Mr Scouller said he will be retrofitting batteries to eventually be supplying the power 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
”Should the load increase out here, we increase the size of the power station,” he said.
“Solar is very modular - you can just build on, add on as you want.”
Mr Scouller said solar farms were not a rival to coal fired power stations – and instead should be looked at as a supplement.
He said while it was not economical to build a coal-fired power station to service a rural area, he had proved solar was not only viable, but successful. The Normanton Farm is being used as a test case for Ergon Energy.