A 25MW solar farm being built in the central-western Queensland town of Barcaldine will provide about 10 per cent of Australia’s large-scale solar electricity, according to ARENA, which announced this week it would provide $22.8 million to support the massive project’s construction.
The Barcaldine Regional Community Solar Farm, which once completed will be the state’s largest solar array, was first proposed to the local community in March, by its developers Kingsway Europe and the Australian arm of Elecnor.
The duo formed a company called Barcaldine Remote Community Solar Farm to plan and develop the project, which is expected to generate 53,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy each year, and may incorporate battery storage once completed in April 2017.
The single-axis tracking solar PV plant will also reduce peak demand pressures and provide voltage control for the local network, resulting in a more robust electricity supply to the sparsely populated and remote Barcaldine region.
ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht says the project will demonstrate the benefits renewable generation can deliver when located at the edges of Australia’s sprawling national electricity network.
“Fringe-of-grid locations in regional Australia face a number of challenges with reliability and outages caused by network constraints and a lack of infrastructure,” Frischknecht said.
“This project will serve as a test case showing how the network benefits from distributed renewable energy can improve network efficiency, and potentially enable solar plants to access an extra revenue stream through network support payments.”
Frischknecht said the potential for adding battery storage would also be examined.
“This could allow the solar plant to work in tandem with the existing gas plant during a line outage, operating as an ‘island’ network independent to the main grid,” he said.
“There is a clear value proposition for large-scale solar in the Barcaldine area, which has an excellent solar resource and experiences voltage and frequency control issues as well as load management challenges.”
As well as ARENA’s contribution, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has provided $20 million in debt finance to the $69 million project.
CEFC CEO Oliver Yates said it was projects like this that showcased solar power as a competitive source of energy.