Solar farms are taking off in Australia, with several planned projects – including a 2GW facility – set to surpass the capacity of the largest current national solar plant.

Utility-scale solar has taken off around the country in the last five years, with a number of significant projects planned and built over the time frame.

Currently, the biggest solar farms in Australia are AGL’s 102 megawatt (MW) Nyngan facility and Fotowatio Renewable Ventures’ 56MW Moree Solar Farm, both in New South Wales.

Coming a close third is Broken Hill (53MW) in regional New South Wales, also owned by AGL.

The Nyngan Solar Plant generates around 233,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of renewable electricity every year, which is enough to supply electricity to approximately 33,000 New South Wales households.

However, Queensland is looking to overshadow these developments with its proposed 2 gigawatt (GW) Bulli Creek Solar Farm, to be located 150km west of Toowoomba. It will be the largest solar farm in Australia and fourth largest in the world.

Toowoomba Regional Council approved the project in February 2015 for a total eight-year footprint of up to 2GW (2,000MW). The development can be staggered over more manageable stages, of between 100MW to 500MW of additional power per upgrade.

Other large-scale solar projects are also in the pipeline. In Victoria, Energy Australia received approval for the Mallee Solar Park, a 250MW facility, in 2010. The project is currently being evaluated for feasibility.

Back in Queensland, ESCO Pacific’s 135MW Ross River Solar Farm is being built over an area of 202ha on an old mango plantation near Townsville, notable for its 320 days of sunshine on average each year.

This $250 million project will have 450,000 ground-mounted solar panels, meeting the yearly energy needs of around 50,000 average households. Construction will begin in early 2017 and is expected to last 12 months.

ESCO Pacific has other solar projects under council application in Queensland, including the 125MW Susan River project (Fraser Coast Regional Council), the 110MW Rollingstone project (Townsville City Council), and the 85MW Isis River project (Bundaberg Regional Council).

Vermeer National Construction Equipment Sales Manager, Jeff Lawson ,said falling generation costs and new innovations were making solar farming much more viable in Australia.

Mr Lawson said, “The next ten years will see more larger-scale solar projects, as Australia tries to reach renewable energy targets and transition to clean energy.”

Mr Lawson said Vermeer’s ground-mounting equipment for solar arrays would play an important part in future solar projects.

“Vermeer is poised to be on the frontlines of the renewable revolution. The struggle for cleaner energy begins at the foundations and Vermeer’s pile driver is a dependable and extremely efficient machine that creates a solid base for solar farm projects.”

PLANNED AUSTRALIAN SOLAR FARM PROJECTS OVER 100MW CAPACITY

Bulli Creek Solar Farm, QLD:

Owner/builder – Solar Choice

Key dates –  Construction likely to begin 2016

Capacity (MW)  – 2,000

Cost: $1 billion

Mallee Solar Park, VIC:

Owner/builder: Energy Australia

Key dates: Undertaking feasibility in 2016

Capacity (MW) – 250

Cost – Unknown

Ross River Solar Farm, QLD:

Owner/builder –  ESCO Pacific

Key dates – Early 2018

Capacity (MW) – 135

Cost – $250 million

Susan River, QLD:

Owner/builder – ESCO Pacific

Key dates – Council decision in October 2016

Capacity (MW) – 125

Cost – Unknown

Rollingstone, QLD:

Owner/builder – ESCO Pacific

Key dates – Council decision in November 2016

Capacity (MW) – 110

Cost – Unknown

Lauren brings a fresh approach to content. While she’s previously written for publications as diverse as Australian Geographic, The Border Watch and Girlfriend, she’s found her true passion in her current role as an editor in the world of energy and infrastructure trade magazines.

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