Residents launch campaign demanding solar farm info
VALDORA residents will launch a campaign demanding Sunshine Coast councillors explain the detail behind plans to build a $30 million solar farm on 49ha of flood-prone cane land.
A meeting to discuss the proposal on Tuesday night resolved to demand an explanation from councillors as to how the land cost exploded in 18 months from $770,000 to the $4.33 million council ultimately paid for it.
Resident Jim Perry, who successfully led an earlier campaign to block a Canadian pension fund erecting 88-metre-high communication towers in the Valdora valley, told the 120 who attended he had serious reservations about the business case, the inflated cost of the land and the visual impact of 40,000 elevated solar panels in a rural setting.
He said the meeting was one council had neglected to hold. The original business study presented to councillors by CEO John Knaggs in closed session in late January last year had required a six-week period of community consultation.
Mr Perry said there was a complete lack of transparency about a project that exposed ratepayers to considerable risk.
In 2011 council approved a commercial solar farm following an application from former council planner Jason Hague on behalf of his company Energy Parks Australia.
EPA held a fee-free option on the site to purchase it from cane farmers the late Col Turner and his wife Lyn for $650,000.
When that option expired in 2012 it was renewed with a new purchase price of $700,000 plus GST.
The option changed hands to Gruenergy, a company that had Mr Hague as a director from December 19, 2011, until December 3, 2012.
Gruenenergy in August, 2012, signed an agreement to lease the land from another company, Akerman Enterprises Pty Ltd, for 30 years for $95,000 a year increasing by 3% annually. The next month it bought the land from the Turners for $770,000 and on-sold it the same day to Akerman for $1.1 million.
The lease agreement gave Gruenenergy the option to buy the land at any time for $1.5 million or market value. It sold that option to council in July 2013 for a non-refundable fee of $300,000. Council in March this year exercised the option by paying Gruenenergy two additional payments each of $1.19 million and then bought the land from Akerman for $1.5 million plus GST of $150,000.
Mr Hague went on ABC Coast FM yesterday morning claiming council would tell the full story in a free publication in the next two weeks.
A council spokesman said Mr Hague was not an employee of council and was not involved in the project.