Queensland’s biggest solar farm built with the support of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency has begun generating and feeding electricity into the grid.
The Barcaldine Remote Community Solar Farm was developed by Elecnor Australia, with funding from ARENA and debt finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht said Barcaldine had reached the milestone two months ahead of schedule, demonstrating the industry was getting faster and more proficient at developing big solar projects.
“Barcaldine was one of the first ARENA-funded solar plants and has helped pave the way for the next generation of 12 large-scale solar farms to be built across the country by the end of next year,” Frischknecht said.
“Supported by ARENA, six big solar plants in Queensland, five in NSW and one in Western Australia are expected to triple Australia’s large-scale solar capacity providing enough energy to power 150,000 average Australian homes.”
ARENA has committed $22.8 million in funding, while the CEFC has committed $20 million in debt finance towards the project.
Elecnor business developer manager Manuel Lopez-Velez said he expected full generation from the plant in the next couple of weeks.
“Barcaldine Solar Farm when fully operational will generate around 57,000MWh of clean energy per year, an energy consumption equivalent to about 9,800 households,” Lopez-Velez said.
CEFC Large-Scale Solar lead Gloria Chan congratulated developers Elecnor on reaching first energy generation within a year of the CEFC committing funding to the project.
“The Barcaldine Solar Farm has been a fast build, demonstrating how knowledge and expertise developed for Australian conditions is benefiting the entire solar sector,” Chan said.
“Shorter construction times, increased knowledge, and access to suitable finance are among factors helping bring these kinds of projects down the cost curve.”
The plant’s fringe-of-grid location will also provide important lessons for other remote area PV projects, she said.
Modelling by Jacobs for the Climate Change Authority has found that large-scale solar could make up as much as 18% of Australia’s electricity generation by 2030.
The CEFC is supporting the development of about a third of the total 300MW of large-scale solar currently installed or under construction in Australia.
The $69 million Barcaldine Solar Farm is expected to be fully operational in the first quarter of 2017. Its 20MW AC (25MW DC) capacity is served by 79,000 single axis tracking solar photovoltaic modules across 90 hectares.