Construction set to begin on new solar farm

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Construction is set to begin on Western Australia’s first co-located solar farm following the signing of a funding agreement with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

The Emu Downs Solar Farm will be co-located with wind turbines and is one of 12 new large scale solar projects around Australia supported by ARENA through its large-scale solar competitive round.

The Emu Downs Solar Farm is being developed by APA Group and is expected to produce enough energy to power 6,700 homes and create an estimated 100 jobs during construction, mostly in the local region.

ARENA CEO, Ivor Frischknecht, said ARENA’s support for Australia’s large-scale solar industry meant solar plants like Emu Downs would be cheaper to build and provide efficient electricity to Australians.

“Emu Downs Solar Farm would not have been viable just a few years ago,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“ARENA has been instrumental in driving down the cost of building a solar farm in Australia since it was established in 2012.

“The ARENA funding ask for big solar projects has dropped significantly from half of total project costs to just 10 per cent on average. In this latest funding round, every dollar of ARENA funding is leveraging $10 from other sources.”

Mr Frischknecht said this price drop made solar farms attractive to investors, as evidenced by the fact that ARENA’s $92 million large-scale solar program has leveraged $1 billion of investment in the 12 farms, which together will triple Australia’s large-scale solar capacity.

“This new generation of solar farms is also proving to be attractive to energy retailers. I’m delighted that Emu Downs Solar Farm has entered into a 13-year power purchase agreement to sell electricity and generation certificates to energy retailer, Synergy,” Mr Frischknecht said.

The agreement is for Synergy to purchase both the energy and the Large-scale Renewable Generation Certificates (LGCs) from the Emu Downs Solar Farm for 13 years from January 2018.

APA Group Managing Director, Mr Mick McCormack, said, “It is pleasing to be able to announce this project, which is the type of energy infrastructure asset that APA will continue to invest in.

“The Emu Downs Solar Project forms part of the execution of our growth strategy in the renewables power generation asset class. The expansion of APA’s existing Emu Downs Wind Farm with the complementary solar generation makes logical and financial sense both from a power generation profile, as well as sharing transmission connection infrastructure.

“Funding from ARENA also demonstrates the innovative and viable business model of the project that will help Australia transition to a cleaner energy future.”

Boosting regional economies

Mr Frischknecht said the six plants in Queensland, five in New South Wales and one in Western Australia funded as part of the large-scale solar round would be a huge boost to regional economies with the projected creation of around 2,300 direct jobs and thousands more indirect jobs.

“It demonstrates that along with support increased solar installation, the ARENA effect is bringing down costs faster and fostering growth in Australia’s renewable energy sector,” Mr Frischknecht said.

Mr Frischknecht said the Emu Downs Solar Farm was joining the growing number of co-located Australian wind and solar projects.

“It will share a transmission connection and facilities with APA’s existing 80MW Emu Downs Wind Farm. This approach saves money on grid connection, approvals and site development and reduces environmental impacts,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“Solar and wind are complementary renewable energy sources. As solar generates energy during the day, wind farms tend to generate more power overnight in WA, co-locating wind and solar delivers more continuous energy generation and makes good business sense.

“Across the board, the move to co-location of wind and solar means solar plants can be rolled out more quickly and cheaply across the country. A recent ARENA-supported study found there’s an estimated 1000MW of potential opportunities to add solar alongside existing wind farms –  that’s enough to power 700,000 homes.”

Emu Downs Solar Farm is expected to be completed in January 2018.

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