The Australian Energy Market Operator has hailed a major step forward in the troubled West Murray Zone after it granted registration for the biggest solar farm to date in that part of the grid, the first new plant since the region was beset with voltage issues.
AEMO said on Thursday that it granted the registration to the 220MW (ac) Limondale 1 solar project located near Balranald in NSW. Limondale 1 is owned by German energy giant RWE, and the registration means it can now begin the commissioning process.
The announcement of a new registration of a large scale renewable energy plant by AEMO is highly unusual – this is normally the province of proud developers and owners keen to beat their own drums – but it has clearly been made as a sign that the issues that afflicted the West Murray region, where five big solar farms had their output cut by half for more than six months – are now largely resolved.
The restriction on solar output – which affected the Wemen, Bannerton, Karadoc, and Gannawarra solar farms in Victoria, and the Broken Hill solar farm in NSW – was imposed after new detailed modelling discovered the risk of voltage oscillations, a problem only resolved after an innovative solution was found with the inverter supplier SMA.
The problems had an impact on other projects who were forced to queue and had their anticipated commissioning processes delayed. About 18 large scale wind and solar projects are affected, although one, the Silverton wind farm, has already had its restrictions lifted.
AEMO’s chief system design and engineering officer, Alex Wonhas, said that Limondale’s registration is another milestone towards unlocking new generation in the West Murray Zone, where there are many gigawatts of wind and solar projects in the pipeline.
“AEMO congratulates RWE Renewable in achieving registration for the Limondale 1 solar PV farm and recognises the company’s collaborative and responsive approach through the connection process to registration,” Wonhas said in a statement.
“While the West Murray Zones presents very challenging network conditions, the collective efforts from across the industry and TransGrid in working with AEMO is helping address these emergent grid performance and stability issues,” he said.
The Limondale solar PV plant actually consists of two different projects, Limondale 1 and 2, which totals approximately 872,000 panels and an export capacity of 249MW (ac). The 29MW Limondale 2, project which was built first despite its numerical ID, reached full production earlier this year.
RWE Renewables senior asset manager, Peter Veljkovic, also acknowledged the work of all parties involved to achieve the milestone.