Australia is one of the sunniest locations on the planet, making it an ideal place for solar PV.
Solar radiation levels range from an upper level of 6.75 kWh/m2/day in Northern Australia to 2.75 kWh/m2/day in Tasmania at the lower end of the scale.
The latest industry analysis released in 2017 by the Australian Photovoltaic Institute shows Australia has a whopping total of 5.6 GW of roof solar PV installed capacity for systems under 100 kW in size. Classified as residential and commercial installations, large-scale utility PV capacity is sitting at 496 MW of installed capacity and growing fast!
Government incentives are the main driver for the development of large-scale and utility-sized solar PV projects.
Capacity forecasts are predicting installed capacity of large-scale PV projects to increase by a further 3 000 MW by 2020.
Projecting out to 2040, forecasts are predicting large-scale PV to grow 10 fold with an estimated total installed capacity of 27 GW!
Advances in battery technology and exportable value-added products produced from renewable energy, such as hydrogen and green ammonia, are expected to be drive growth in large-scale PV even further.
Due to high solar irradiation levels, the majority of the large-scale PV developments are situated in NSW.
Here we look at the top giant utility-sized solar PV plants in Australia that are in commercial operation.
Larger Solar PV farms are in the construction or planning phase, such as the Riverland Initiative that will have a total installed capacity of 330MW and with at least 100MW of storage capacity consisting of over 1 million batteries along with 3.4 million solar panels.
Construction started in 2017 and has been earmarked for completion in 2018.
Nyngan Solar Farm
For now, the Nyngan solar PV farm is ranked as the largest solar PV plant in Australia, with a total installed capacity of 102 MW.
The plant went into production in January 2016 and is situated in NSW, 10 km west of the Nyngan township.
The solar plant occupies approximately 250 ha of agricultural land. The plant is expected to generate an estimated 230 000 Megawatt Hours (MWh) of clean energy per annum, providing clean electricity to over 40 thousand households.
The plant will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 195 720 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per annum. That equates to removing roughly 53 000 cars off the road!
AGL was responsible for the development and management of the project with First Solar, a US-based PV panel manufacturer providing engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services.
The Gannawarra Solar Farm
The Gannawarra Solar Farm is the latest utility-grade solar PV plant to go into commercial operation.
The plant only recently went into commercial operation in March 2018.
The single-tracking solar PV plant will generate 116 000 MWhs of clean energy per annum.
That’s enough to power 25 000 average Australian homes. It’s the also the large scale solar farm to be installed in Victoria and has a total capacity size of 60 MW.
The Gannawarra Solar Farm is owned by Wirsol and Edify Energy and was financed in a portfolio transaction that included the Whitsunday and Hamilton Solar Farms.
Moree Solar Farm
The Moree Solar Farm is owned and operated by FRV, a leading global solar power company. The solar power plant has a total installed capacity of 56 MW.
The project was partly funded by the Australian government, which provided a grant of AU$101.7 million.
The plant will supply approximately 24 000 Australian homes with clean energy and offset 95 000 tons of CO2 emissions.
The plant will also save 165 000 megalitres of clean water compared to a coal-fired power station.
This solar farm is also one of the first plants in Australia to use horizontal trackers in order for the PV panels to track the sun throughout the day and increase power generation. The plant is situated in NSW, 10 km south of Moree.
The site was selected due to high levels of solar radiation and the relatively flat landscape, making it ideal for a large-scale PV project.
Broken Hill Solar Farm
The Broken Hill Solar PV farm is Australia’s 2nd largest utility-sized Solar PV system.
It has a total installed capacity of 53 MW and is also situated in NSW outside the Nyngan township.
AGL was also the project developer, with First Solar providing EPC services again. The plant is powered by 677 760 of First Solar’s advanced PV modules.
It’s estimated the plant will produce 126 000 MWhs of clean solar energy per annum, providing enough clean power to over 17 000 averaged sized Australian homes.
This solar farm will offset 109 000 metric tons of CO2 emissions per annum—that’s equivalent to taking 29 000 cars off the road.
The plant achieved commercial operation status in October 2015.
Barcaldine Solar Farm
The Barcaldine Solar Farm is a 25 MW Solar PV plant situated in Queensland, just outside the township of Barcaldine.
The project was planned and developed by Barcaldine Remote Community Solar Farm company.
It’s owned by Elecnor, one of the world's leading solar PV EPC companies.
This solar farm occupies approximately 93 hectares and consists of 79 000 Solar PV modules.
It is expected to produce approximately 53 500 MWhs of clean energy per annum. It’s expected to offset 50 000 tons of C02 emissions per annum.
The plant also takes advantage of single-axis tracking technology, allowing the PV panels to track the sun as it moves across the sky and increase energy productivity.
The location is ideal for solar power due it’s consistently high temperatures and year-round sunshine.
Emu Downs Solar Park
The Emu Downs Solar Park was constructed in 2016 and went into commercial operation in December 2017.
The plant was developed by the APA group, Australia’s largest gas infrastructure company. This solar plant has a total capacity size of 20 MW.
It’s situation in Western Australia, making it an ideal location due to the high irradiation levels.
As of January 2018, they will be selling Large-scale Renewable Generation Certificates to the utility company Synergy as part of the government renewable energy certificate program.
The project had a total cost of AU$50 million, with AU$5.5 million coming from the Australian Renewable Energy Counci,l or ARENA.
This solar park will compliment APA’s existing 80 MW wind farm situated in the same location.
Mugga Lane Solar Park
It has a total installed capacity of 13 MW, with 53 000 Solar PV panels. It also makes use of single-axis tracking technology to improve overall Solar PV production.
It will provide clean energy to over 3 250 Australian households and offset 480 000 tons of CO2 emissions over the 25-year lifespan of the plant.
The Mugga Lane Solar PV Farm is the third Solar PV Farm funded by the Australian Capital Territory, bringing the total renewable energy supply to the federal district to 35%.
These are exciting times for the solar PV utility industry, with exponential growth predicted in the coming decade.
As costs fall further and technology improves and matures, the transition to clean energy is only expected to further accelerate.
Utility-sized solar PV projects are in the pipeline that will exceed 200 MW in size and also include energy storage systems.
As ESS technology develops and matures, we can expect to see more ESS included in these utility-grade projects.
ESS will assist in providing more power during peak power periods and assist in smoothing out the renewable energy generation curve.
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