Solar Farms with Melanie Findlay


Below is a transcript of Melanie Findlay’s interview with Aaron Stevens of 990 4RO from March 2016.

Melanie:

Ah yeah, I decided to travel to Melbourne last week and try and learn how to build a large scale solar farm. Probably because over the last few months we have seen a surge in inquiries at the firm for landowners being approached for large scale solar farms.

4RO:

So they’re getting contacted by people wanting to build solar farms on their lands?

Melanie:

Yeah, that’s right. So down at the conference specifically Arena, which is the Federal Government Arm of the Renewable Agency, they have been producing software so that solar farm or wind farm developers can locate appropriate sites near substations and near say a wind farm, where you can test the wind speeds and things like that.

And they’ve got a database that helps developers find appropriate locations for solar farms. So we will get called by our clients, and they will say, “I have been approached for a 500 hectare solar farm, can you help me out Mel?”

4RO:

So, what are the difficulties? What are the challenges of setting up a solar farm on your land?

Melanie:

I guess I come from the mining and gas background so I am always scared of development, but I think the thing to think about is do you want a long term lease, or do you want to subdivide the land?

So there are advantages and disadvantages for you for that. If you subdivide the land and sell it off, obviously you lose control of the land so it may be a solar farm today, but something else might be built tomorrow.

But if you lease the property there’s the tax consequences to think about, so will you lose half the rent in tax?

The other thing to think about is once the solar farm has been built, what will follow.

So obviously you need water to keep panels clean, and there will probably be electricity lines running to substations or to overhead powerlines, because they will need to tap the grid.

So things like weed baselines and taking care of your biosecurity. So obviously we would tailor and make the lease document a little bit different to normal, trying to work out what will come after the solar farm proposal has been put to a landowner.

The other thing we are noticing is there are hotspots. So if you are on flat dirt, good access, out of flood, near a substation, you will be contacted by more than one company.

4RO:

Really?

Melanie:

So not signing up exclusively, maybe you can double dip and have a go at two solar farms rather than just one. So don’t lock yourself in, is probably my hot tip.

4RO:

You said you’ve been inundated, why is now the time? Why are so many people looking into solar farms at the moment?

Melanie:

Well you’ve probably noticed that coal is off the boil, coal prices have dropped and I think the world is looking at a cleaner source of energy.

And I think that with the Paris Agreement that is supposed to be signed in April, we will probably be looking at a world that wants cleaner fuel.

So in Australia we have got an abundant source of solar, the Federal Government has put $350 million in grants up and the Queensland Government is attempting to match that by if you receive funding from the Federal Government for a large scale solar development, then there is also incentive payments for the feeding price for the solar power.

So I guess developers are seeing that now is a good opportunity to get into the market and assist with renewable energy.

And I think Minister Lynam has said that he would like 50% of our power to come from renewables by 2030 in Queensland.

4RO:

So everyone’s jumping on it right now.

Melanie:

That’s right.

4RO:

Alright, so if you have had that phone call or if you are likely to get it in the future, then call Rees R & Sydney Jones. How do we get in touch with you Mel?

Melanie:

Through the website is probably easiest, it is www.reesjones.com.au. Or the number is 4927 6333.

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