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Equis plans 1,000MW solar farm in heart of Queensland’s gas country

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Singapore-based renewable energy developer Equis Energy has announced plans to build a 1,000MW solar farm – which would be Australia’s largest – in the heart of Queensland’s coal and gas region in the Surat Basin.

Equis

The Wandoan solar farm, to be built near the town of the same name, adds considerably to the huge pipeline of wind and solar projects in Queensland, which now stands at more than 4,000MW.

Wandoan won approval from the Western Downs Council late last week and will begin construction when the first of several negotiations on off-take agreements is complete.

The $1.5 billion project is expected to be built in stages, and Equis could go bigger – this plant is likely to cover 1,400 hectares but is has more than 5000 hectares available.

Equis is taking advantage of existing infrastructure, including new transmission assets, which has been built to support the gas industry. Demand for energy is highest in the region because of the gas export industry.

Equis is also planning to build the 127MW Tailem Bend solar project in South Australia, to be built near a 28M diesel plant owned by Snowy Hydro.

That solar farm will begin construction when negotiations for contracts are concluded, and Equis also has an interest in the 150MW Collinsville north solar farm, where PPAs are also under construction, and other projects in the pipeline in South Australia and NSW.

All project are considered to be “battery storage ready”.

“Equis is committed to developing large-scale solar generation in rural areas to ensure employment opportunities and economic growth in local communities,” chairman David Russell said. Russell helped found the company, along with other ex Macquarie Group bankers and other fund managers and ex bankers.

Western Downs Regional Council Mayor Paul McVeigh said the council wanted to become “the Energy Capital” of Australia.

“We have our coal and coal-fired power stations and coal seam gas,” McVeigh told the Toowoomba Chronicle. “Now we have a third wave of energy with solar farms about to start construction. We are proud to be making ourselves the energy capital of Queensland and, we hope, for Australia.”

He said the timeframe in which Council has processed this application “highlights the message we are open for business, and I think it is important to reiterate that although our approval process is rigorous, it is efficient.”

The Wandoan project will include 3 million solar PV panels and generate 1.8 million MWh of electricity a year, equivalent to the annual needs of around 255,000 homes.

  

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  • Tom

    I’ve been trying to figure out whether this is flat, fixed tilt, or single axis tracking.

    Judging by the capacity factor (1.8 million MWh / 1000MW / 8640 hours = 20.5%), I’d suggest that it’s not going to be an axis tracking plant.

    In which case $1.5 billion seems a bit steep, given that the Barcaldine project only cost $1/watt – see link here: http://reneweconomy.com.au/solars-new-sweet-spot-low-cost-compact-pv-plants-1watt-65190/

    If the Wandoan solar farm is indeed going to be single axis tracking (which I don’t think it is, but here’s hoping), then $1.50/watt would be a very exciting development indeed.

    • john

      Yes I am also trying to work out the costing on this project.
      Perhaps it is tracking which would only be single axis.
      I am of the thought at fixed array it would over $1 million.

    • solarguy

      A 1,000 MW fixed Array would produce about 1,825,000MWh on average per year. That should take care of the needs of 91,250 homes using on average 20KWh/ day. However, to realize that there would need to be storage added.

      • Caffined

        Battery storage for continuous supply would be logical but significantly add to the cost.
        To support the 16+ hours the PV is “off line” and cover the am/pm peak demands would probably need a storage capacity of 3000+ MWh !
        Even using the cheapest storage (batteries), that would add another $1.0+ billion to the cost …and practically double the kWh cost.

  • Glen Stickley

    A lot of solar projects must be very close to sending power to the grid. An article on which ones already are exporting power and also when others will would be great. Also does the NEM Watch graph include the new plants as soon as they start exporting power?

    • solarguy

      Well I think it would have to.

  • Just_Chris

    so there is a 4 GW pipeline of solar in QLD, my personal opinion is that mixing that much solar with that much coal is going to end badly unless someone takes a very careful and considered look at how to transition from the current state of play to the new projected generation mix. I am in 2 minds about this – in some ways I’d love to see a careful well planned transition but in other ways its really exciting to see what happens when you dump generation assets willy nilly all over the map.

    • Just_Chris

      btw I think we desperately need to move to decarbonise our economy all I’m saying is that we are doing it in a way that appears to be totally unplanned. It’s the lack of planning that I take exception to not the transition.

      • solarguy

        I said as much the other day on this forum. Yes there needs to be a planned transition, that’s for sure.

      • Mike Westerman

        Oh there’s planning – just not planning for a smooth transition but one that maximises the last spasm of profit to fossil fuel plants.

    • Malcolm M

      Is another inter-connector needed to take all this surplus power into the NSW market ? Queensland has the newest coal fleet, and State support for 50% renewables, whereas NSW has Liddell (2051 MW) closing in 2022 and Vales Point (1320 MW) turning 50 years in 2018.

  • trackdaze

    Now if only certain Indian conglomerate from a country with excess coal and the stated aim of reducing its coal imports was to take notice?

  • Roger Franklin

    Congratulations to the Western Downs Council for approving a project and Equis Energy for proposing it in the first place. So Western Downs Council – you need to get construction started on “The Big Solar Panel”. Might be good to put a “Big Battery” close by to keep some of that power for the evenings! Also might be good to talk up the Number of jobs involved in the project and related infrastructure. I hope Annastacia will be out there with a shovel to give it a big tick too! Oh – no need to send an invite to Josh and Co – it’s not coal powered so its of no interest!

  • Now would be the best time to start planning the approximately 5,000 MWh of energy storage and whatever back-up power is required to supply the desired power on demand powered by this 1000 MW wind farm, to that end ….

    Wind, storage and back-up system designer
    http://scottish.scienceontheweb.net/Wind%20power%20storage%20back-up%20calculator.htm

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d564fd250b7537e176950bdd6ea86d37b2d8cdbe9a59195917c9ce5018fa1fd5.jpg

    Peak demand, wind and back-up power / energy usage and storage capacity calculator

    For the specification and design of renewable energy electricity generation systems which successfully smooth intermittent wind generation to serve customer demand, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 52 weeks a year.

    Adopting the recommendation derived from scientific computer modelling that the energy storage capacity be about 5 hours times the wind power capacity, the tables offer rows of previously successful modelled system configurations – row A, a configuration with no back-up power and rows B to G offering alternative ratios of wind power to back-up power. Columns consist of adjustable power and energy values in proportion to fixed multiplier factors.

    • Mike Westerman

      Mt Byron, a site just west of Brisbane, could comfortably suppy 1GW for 6h.

      • Is that one of Blakers’ sites, a previously scoped out site or one of your own? Got a link?

  • Drake Anderson

    How will this operate a steel mill?
    Natural Gas is far cheaper.