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Another 47MW of solar farms reach financial close in Queensland

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Large-scale solar is rapidly gathering momentum in Australia’s Sunshine State, with another 47MW of solar farms slated for development in regional Queensland this week reaching financial close on Friday, putting them on track to begin construction.

Canadian Solar said  that its ARENA-backed 15MW Longreach and 25MW Oakey solar projects had both secured finance from Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corp, which had tipped in a total of $31.5 million via its large-scale solar financing program.

stage1-Oakey-Solar-Farm-2-7

Artist’s rendering of stage 1 of the Oakey Solar Farm. Source: http://oakeysolarfarm.com.au/

The CEFC has committed $12 million in senior debt finance to the $28.7 million Longreach Solar Farm and $19.5 million in senior debt finance to the 30MW $47.5 million Oakey Solar Farm, adding to debt finance from Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and a $3.5 million grant ARENA.

And with 20-year Queensland government-backed contracts for difference locked in in March, both projects are now expected to go ahead with construction this month and be in operation in the first quarter of 2018.

So far, the CEFC large-scale solar program has committed more than $300 million to projects in three states, almost half of which has gone towards projects in Queensland, accelerating the development of more than 210MW in large-scale solar capacity in the state.

CEFC big solar lead, Gloria Chan, said solar was is an increasingly cost-effective energy solution in high lsolar irradiation areas like Longreach, in Queensland’s central west, and Oakey, which is west of Toowoomba.

“These two projects represent a significant injection into the Queensland economy, that will drive further growth, expertise and diversity in the renewable energy sector,” Chan said on Monday.

“Another important benefit is that the land owners will generate a long-term leasing income from hosting the solar panels,” she said.

Longreach and Oakey, both of qwhich will use single axis tracking technology, are expected to generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of nearly 12,000 homes.

Canadian Solar General manager Daniel Ruoss said both projects had received strong support from their local communities, which had welcomed the addition of solar to their local energy supplies.

“We expect the Longreach Solar Farm, with its 54,600 panels across 86 hectares, to generate enough solar to power around 5,000 Queensland homes,” Ruoss said. “The Oakey Solar Farm, with its 93,600 panels across 60 hectares, is expected to generate enough
power for around 7,000 homes.

Plans are underway for a 55MW expansion to the Oakey project, once the first stage is completed.

The two projects are expected to employ around 80 people during construction, with RCR O’Donnell Griffin undertaking the engineering, procurement and construction of both projects.  

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  • George Darroch

    I can’t keep up! Someone hand me a spreadsheet!

    Question from ignorance: does the benefit of higher insolation beat the transmission losses from being nearer to population and industrial uses?

    • Sunbuntu Ltd

      Normally you want to be near the demand, There is not that much extra sun.

      • Just_Chris

        I think the question is how far will the power have to travel and where would the power be coming from if the solar wasn’t there. The Longreach plant is a 15 MW. I suspect that the power demand in the local area will consume most if not all off the generation capacity from this plant resulting in less power needing to be imported for power stations further east. So in this instance I suspect that this plant will result in less network losses rather than more. The 15 MW generated in the west would result in a reduction in demand from further east effectively leading to greater efficiency. This means that there will be perhaps 16-17 MW less generation required at peak times in Brisbane (probably more likely Gladstone) due to a remote power station in Longreach.

        If the size of solar plants in the east were increased way beyond the demand in the area then losses would be an issue (which is what I think you are suggesting). I agree with the principle that you should build your generation assets as close to your demand as possible but I think in the case of Queensland it would make sense to build the solar assets in the east of the state because the solar peak is later, the solar intensity is higher (by about 25% compared to the coast) and the land is less productive due to the area being dryer. Obviously there are laws of diminishing returns and I think my poor geography skills have let me down – I thought Longreach was much further south than it actually is. I suspect Longreach to Brisbane is past that point of diminishing returns but it isn’t that far (700 km) from Gladstone.

    • Peter Campbell

      On the other hand transmission losses are not that much. Just build lots of solar all over the place!

    • George Michaelson

      Speaking from ignorance, I’d say the benefit of 30min time-shift is possibly worth more than either the transmission loss, or the higher insolation from latitude. It extends the window of PV sourced input to demand usefully, and may reflect better bidding options.

  • Just_Chris

    “both of which will use single axis tracking technology” – fantastic news, especially since the sun rise and sun set is 30 min later in Longreach than Brisbane. The tracking will square off the solar profile and the “effective 30 min solar time zone shift” will push the profile later in the afternoon. In February and December the sunset will be 7 pm meaning Longreach should be at reasonably high output for almost half of the peak afternoon demand – nice.