Accelerating the rollout of utility-scale solar

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The uptake of utility-scale solar in Australia is set to increase with ARENA funding 12 new solar plants and statistics revealing that solar farm set-up costs are decreasing.

In a push to reduce costs and triple Australia’s solar production, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is supporting the construction of 12 new solar plants in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia.

The 12 plants are predicted to produce around $1 billion in commercial investment and could be built by the end of 2017.

APA Group’s Emu Downs Solar Farm in Western Australia was scheduled to begin construction by the end of 2016.

Six of the plants will be located in Queensland, five in New South Wales and one in Western Australia, and together they are expected to produce the equivalent of 150,000 homes annual energy use.

New utility-scale solar plants:

  • Origin Energy’s Darling Downs Solar Farm in Dalby, Queensland
  • Edify Energy with Solar Choice’s Whitsunday Solar Farm in Collinsville, Queensland
  • Neoen Australia’s Parkes Solar Farm in Parkes, New South Wales
  • Genex Power’s Kidston Solar Farm in Kidston, Queensland
  • Manildra Solar Farm in Manildra, New South Wales
  • RATCH Australia Corporation’s Collinsville Solar Power Station in Collinsville, Queensland
  • Neoen Australia’s Griffith Solar Farm in Griffith, New South Wales
  • Canadian Solar’s (Australia) Oakey Solar Farm in Oakey, Queensland
  • Neoen Australia’s Dubbo Solar Farm in Dubbo, New South Wales
  • APT Pipeline’s (APA Group) Emu Downs Solar Farm in Cervantes, Western Australia
  • Goldwind Australia’s White Rock Solar Farm in Glen Innes, New South Wales
  • Canadian Solar’s (Australia) Longreach Solar Farm in Longreach, Queensland

The 12 projects will involve the construction, installation and connection of the plants, and the deployment of 480MW of solar PV energy to state electricity grids, which will also meet 10 per cent of the capacity required to meet Australia’s 2020 renewable energy target.

ARENA funding has been one of the driving forces reducing costs in the large-scale solar space and helping to speed up the feasibility of plants.

Current outlooks of large-scale solar PV plants by Bloomberg New Energy Finance predict that between 2015 and 2020 around 40 per cent of new global energy capacity will be produced by these utility-scale solar plants.

Cheaper to build = more solar potential

Data compiled from the Expressions of Interest (EoI) stage of ARENA’s funding round for large-scale solar projects found that capital costs for these type of projects have reduced significantly over the past two years.

This data was acquired from cost and generation data that was submitted in the funding round in relation to 75 large-scale solar projects, and suggests that cost reductions in the sector are both achievable and sustainable.

Jeff Lawson, National Construction Equipment Sales Manager at Vermeer, said these figures showed that there were ways to reduce set up costs for large-scale solar, and that actively employing these methods would help speed up the rollout of new solar plants around Australia.

“The energy market is in the middle of a major transition and large solar plants like these 12 new ones will play a big part in the future energy mix,” Mr Lawson said.

“One way to ensure solar plants are more viable is to use equipment that can further drive down capital costs and help make construction more efficient.

“For example Vermeer’s PD10 pile driver has GPS guidance, auto-plumb and a laser-controlled post-depth-control feature so piles can be installed cheaper and more accurately.

“The use of this equipment builds strong foundations to lay panels on and reduces the risk of project delays or added installation costs.

“Set up costs are decreasing so if large-scale solar projects can continue to finds ways to construct solar plants efficiently there is potential for more solar energy to be produced around the country.”

This partner content is brought to you by Vermeer. For more information, visit www.vermeer.com.au.

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