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Queensland’s largest solar farm now feeding power to the grid

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Queensland’s largest solar power plant to date, the 25MW Barcaldine Regional Community Solar Farm, has begun generating and feeding electricity into the grid – just months after construction started on the project in July, and two months ahead of schedule.

The $70 million, 90 hectare solar farm, which comprises more than 78,000 single axis tracking solar panels, was first proposed to the community in March 2015, and in December received $22.8 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

DCIM100MEDIA

DCIM100MEDIA

At the time, ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the project, sited in central western Queensland, would demonstrate the benefits renewable generation could deliver at the edges of Australia’s sprawling national electricity network.

The project, developed by Elecnor Australia, was also a recipient of $20 million in debt finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).

In comments on Wednesday, Frischknecht said Barcaldine’s ahead-of-schedule development demonstrated 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.

“Supported by ARENA, six big solar plants in Queensland, five in New South Wales 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’s unprecedented investment in large-scale solar is expected to unlock almost $1 billion in commercial investment and boost regional economies,” he said.

“As well as generating clean energy, the project is demonstrating how project developers can monetise network benefits and ultimately how solar farms can improve network efficiency and reliability at the edge of the grid,” Frischknecht said.

CEFC large-scale solar lead Gloria Chan echoed Frischknecht’s comments, that the speed of the Barcaldine development highlighted the potential and growing maturity of Australia’s big solar industry.

“The Barcaldine Solar Farm has been a fast build, demonstrating how knowledge and expertise developed for Australian conditions is benefiting the entire solar sector,” Ms 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. Construction of this solar farm in a fringe-of-grid location will also provide important learnings for other off-grid remote area solar PV projects.”

Barcaldine Mayor Rob Chandler said the local community, having supported the project from development to construction, was celebrating the new milestone.

“The people in our district are enthusiastic supporters of solar energy and the great benefits it can bring to outback communities like ours. If it’s one thing we have a lot of its sun so it’s great to see it being harnessed to power the electricity grid.”

Elecnor business developer manager Manuel Lopez-Velez said the solar farm was expected to be operating at full generation in the next couple of weeks.

“Barcaldine Solar Farm when fully operational will generate around 57,000 MWh of clean energy per year, an energy consumption equivalent to approximately 9,800 households,” Lopez-Velez said.  

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  • john

    Considering Barcaldine is rather west of the Great Dividing Range I do not think they will have many cloud shading problems.
    They will have shading problems from dust however so there is a business opportunity to go clean panels for a new start up company out there.
    I am not sure if this is connected to the Grid but if it is then i expect for every 1000 kWh of power they produce it is worth at least 1250 kWh of dispatched power.

    In fact here is the Ergon site information about Barcaldine.

    Our electricity network consists of approximately 160,000 kilometres of powerlines and one million power poles, along with associated infrastructure such as major substations and power transformers. We also own and operate 33 stand-alone power stations that provide supply to isolated communities across Queensland which are not connected to the main electricity grid. Since August 2007, we have owned and operated the Barcaldine gas-fired power station along with its associated infrastructure, which supplies power to the main grid.

    However the story still holds true the loss of power due to transmission distance is a problem either receiving power or exporting.

    One of the real reasons that any type of distributed power with zero energy input at the extremities of the Grid is so valuable.

    • john

      Perhaps those other 33 stand-alone power stations could reduce the subsidy of some $430 million paid by other customers if Renewable Energy was partially used.

    • Chris Drongers

      Barcaldine solar farm has great value to Ergon and to the Carmichael coal mine.
      Firstly, the solar plant releases gas for high value export rather than domestic use with the risk of non-export parity pricing
      Secondly, the Carmichael coal mine up the line at Apha will need much more power and the PV plant, run in conjunction with the gas plant, can help supply this. Expect to see a lot more solar being built to support existing fossil fuel power stations and stave off having to build new thermal power plants that will need to buy fossil fuels at varying prices and at risk of corporate green environmental reputations.

  • Unfortunately no SCADA data being published (yet?) so can’t add in as first Large Solar plant in the QLD region of the NEM-Watch Fuel Type Widget:
    http://reneweconomy.com.au/nem-watch/ https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6400925e7576fcb20d72f653eee7f9e7cea416f0c9d2f1885a686af87d00577e.png

    • john

      Paul i am across the widget.
      However as i said I think the solar plant is such a win it totally reduces cost when it is running.

  • Ray Miller

    Well done and early to boot look forward to seeing it on the live generation.

  • john

    In fact this is only one solar farm there is going to be an even larger one built shortly.

  • Ray Miller

    Sophie, When presenting information about renewable projects I expect more robust presentation of the technical specifications, the missing information in this article is the Grid exported ac power rating ie. 20MW, all very well to give the PV peak power rating on the nameplate under ideal conditions but without temperature derating under real working conditions, cable and inverter loses.

    Ideally the expected “capacity factor” with the local expected solar radiation at the site and increase of plant output due to single axis tracking. Even use using the BOM solar radiation seasonal data, these large scale PV plants will have different characteristics throughout Australia so would be good to have a clearer picture about real performance.
    https://arena.gov.au/project/barcaldine-remote-community-solar-farm/

    http://www.bom.gov.au/jsp/awap/solar/index.jsp?colour=colour&time=latest&step=0&map=solarave&period=12month&area=nat