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Origin signs up for 200MW solar plant in S.A, as PPA prices tumble

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Origin Energy has firmed up its position as Australia’s top contractor of large-scale solar, after revealing its latest power purchase agreement with a major South Australian solar project that is to be built by a former coal chief near the former coal hub of Port Augusta.

Origin said on Thursday in its half-year results presentation that it had signed a PPA with the Bungala Solar Project, a potentially 200MW affair being developed 7km north-east of Port Augusta by start-up renewables outfit Reach Solar.

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As we reported here in October, Reach – which is headed up by former coal power executive Tony Concannon – applied for development approval of a 300MW single axis tracking solar PV power plant in September.

The idea for the grid-connected solar plant is that it will draw on the skilled local Port Augusta workforce and existing transmission infrastructure, both of which are “underutilised” since the April closure of the 760MW coal-fired Flinders and Playford power stations.

According to Calabria, the project now aims to build an initial 100MW array, with plans to add a further 100MW in the future.

The Bungala deal is the latest of several for Origin, which says it has contracted a total of 275MW of big solar in the first half of 2017 alone, making a total of 375MW of signed PPAs yet to come into production.

Other recent deals include the 10.6MW Degrussa solar and storage project in remote Western Australia, and the 10.8MW Lakeland solar plus battery storage plant.

In an interview on Thursday afternoon, Calabria told RenewEconomy that, as big solar costs had come down, the company had taken the opportunity under the RET to issue more long term contracts.

Indeed, you can see in the chart below, taken from Origin’s presentation, just how far, and how fast, the cost of large-scale solar generation has plunged in Australia. The PPA prices are now well below $80/MWh, effectively half of where they were in 2012.

origin ppa

But Calabria, who stressed that Origin was looking at both wind and solar, said it was also experiencing growth in rooftop solar with business customers – solar as a service.

“We have been leading growth in that segment of the market,” Calabria told RE. “When you have higher wholesale prices, it can suit some customers in the right circumstance.

“That’s what we’re seeing.” he said.

On battery storage, Calabria said his team was “watching that technology” as the market matures and improvements in efficiency and cost of the technologies are made.

“It will play a role, whether on the grid or in the home. It will be part of broader solution,” he said.  

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  • trackdaze

    This is how we want our politicians to talk and act.

  • Miles Harding

    Good to see the idiots in canberra aren’t able to totally kill the renewables industry,

    I feel that South Australia needs a more general prescription to produce a resillient energy system.
    I would hope to soon hear of some of the following soon:
    * OCGTs being installed close to adelaide to manage peaks and supply issues from the increasingly renewable energy sources, as well as transmission issues form the spencer gulf energy precinct.
    * Greatly increased wind and solar to reduce fuel costs and dependency on gas.
    * Novel grid scale energy storage systems, such as pumped hydro when the wind and solar installations are sufficient to produce storable surpluses on a regular basis.
    * Use of batteries at local substation and home level, where the sale doesn’t permit use of cheaper storage technologies.

    • solarguy

      Damn it Miles, you stole my thunder!

  • Malcolm M

    This will help balance out wind power. With 1576 MW of wind capacity in South Australia, and another 213 MW under construction at Hornsdale, the SA market risks saturation at times of high wind and low demand. But when the wind dies down and the sun comes out, prices go up as the market becomes dependent on gas.

    Interesting that it will have single axis tracking. Data from the Nyngan solar farm shows that it keeps producing at high capacity factors right through the evening peak in summer (but that its production dies down before the evening peak in winter). Port August is only 0.6 degrees further north than Nyngan, so the data would be relevant. Single axis tracking becomes progressively less useful further from the equator, because the panels are essentially flat at midday rather than facing north, so I expect Port Augusta (32.5 degrees S) may represent the southern limit of where single axis tracking is economic.

    • solarguy

      Sorry Mal, your incorrect on single axis tracking, being that panels are essentially flat at midday.

    • Tom

      The other thing is that Port Augusta is 9 degrees east of Nyngan, but only half an hour behind, hence sunrise and sunrise would both be 15 minutes later in SA time at Port Augusta than they are in NSW time at Nyngan.

      It only stretches generation out an extra 15 minutes into the evening peak, but everything counts.