Perth-based solar power systems integrator Sun Brilliance has upgraded its plans for a solar farm in Western Australia from a $42m 25MW facility to a $160m plant that will generate 100MW.
“Our competitively-priced 100MW solar farm will change the way electricity generation in Western Australian is viewed,” says Sun Brilliance director Ray Wills, pointing out the dominance of roof-top solar in the state and growth of utility-scale projects around the rest of the world.
The facility will produce 20% more electricity than Australia’s largest solar farm by capacity, the 102MW Nyngan solar farm, and use single-axis tracking. “That’s where we will pick up most of the [output] premium,” Professor Wills says.
The project will be built on a 165ha site outside Cunderbin, 158km east of Perth.
Sun Brilliance plans to build a sub-station at the plant and a 2km transmission line to connect to the Western Power grid.
It has adopted a merchant model to sell the generated power in the wholesale energy market.
“Whatever the spot market is each half hour is what we’ll get,” Prof Wills says.
An increase in the scale of the project and preference for the merchant model over pre-determined pricing in a power purchase agreement is proof investors are confident with large-scale solar, he says. “Once we’ve executed this project and it’s seen to be successful I think others will follow.”
The challenge in the West Australian market is the dominance of the government generator, he says.
“How do you get into that market? We’ve decided the best way is not to worry about a PPA but simply go into the spot market. The challenge in Australia is that investors to date haven’t had a particular appetite for merchant projects,” he says, listing two on the east coast but none out west.
Sun Brilliance’s unnamed European-based investor partner has plenty of experience with the merchant model, he says. “They’re pretty comfortable with that as an investment scenario.”
The partner, who is helping to arrange finance, has nearly 600MW of renewable energy projects around the world under his belt.
Sun Brilliance has not sought assistance from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
It is aiming to start construction in January and for generation to start July 2017.