Bendigo mining ponds to become floating solar plant

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Yamakura Dam in Japan is home to the world's largest floating solar installation

The old Woodvale Evapotation Pond Complex site, where groundwater was historically pumped as part of gold mining activities, will become home to a 60MW Solar Project.

GBM Gold has announced plans to develop on the site, which is an ideal re-use of a redundant facility that ceased operation in 2016, as the ponds enjoy excellent sun exposure, are not readily visible to adjacent residences and are located close to where the power is needed.

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Woodvale ponds 1 to 7

The implementation of the solar project will utilise Ponds 1A, 1B, 2, 3, 6 and 7 and the existing infrastructure at Woodvale. Pond 1A will be retained as a pond and operate as floating solar enabling containment of all rainfall on the site. Ponds 1B, 2, 3 and 7 will have their spillways removed so that they do not retain water. A standard solar system will be installed on these ponds.

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GBM Gold subsidiary, Kralcopic Pty Ltd is the registered holder of Mining Licence MIN5364 for the operation of the Woodvale Evaporation Facility. Kralcopic has prepared a rehabilitation plan in accordance with the Mineral Resource Development Act (Victoria). The approved rehabilitation work plan envisages a deep fill zone in Pond 6. The plan encompasses the elements required to re-instigate the ponds for a solar complex:

a) Removal of surficial contaminants (salts and metals) from the base of the Ponds 1, 2, 3 and 7;
b) Removal of seven stockpiles of contaminants from a previous reconstruction of Ponds 1, 2 and 3;
c) Disposal of the contaminants from Ponds 1, 2, 3 and 7, and the stockpiles to a repository in the floor of Pond 6 in accordance with the current work plan for the mining licence.

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Woodvale evaporation complex

A level area similar to Ponds 1-3 will be created in Pond 6 making it more suitable for the installation of Solar Panels. The work required to prepare the complex for the development of a solar project is less than that required to return it to agriculture, as was originally suggested by the government.

The ponds are designed to maximise the amount of sunlight impinging on them with only screening around the property.

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The solar power plant is planned to be connected to the sub-transmission network in Bendigo via a 66kV power line and will tie into a new sub-station situated on rehabilitated Ponds 4 and 5 at Woodvale. Powercor advised that the Woodvale Solar Power Plant could be connected to the existing BETS-EHK 66 kV line based on the applicant entering a Connection Agreement with Powercor. This is a very promising outcome as grid connection is often one of the most costly and difficult aspects of power projects.

The City of Greater Bendigo has a goal of 100 per cent renewable energy generation from local and regional sources. The Woodvale Solar Project is a significant step forward and has the potential to assist Council in achieving that goal.

It will also create an estimated 100 jobs during construction.