The Australian Renewable Energy Agency is to provide $10 million in funding to help pay for the first large scale solar project to be located alongside a wind farm in Australia, a 10MW solar project adjoining the Gullen Range wind farm near Canberra.
The money is being allocated to the Chinese wind manufacturing giant Goldwind, which has been canvassing the project for the last few years, and recently won planning approval for the local council.
While the ARENA support for the project is welcome, it may raise a few eyebrows because the project costs are well above those submitted by 20 other solar project developers in the large scale solar tender currently being run by ARENA, which includes three hybrid solar projects.
The solar farm to be added to the Gullen Range project (pictured above) will cost $26 million, or around $2.60 a watt. This is more than the average of $2.16 a watt of the projects that made the final solar funding shortlist.
Also, ARENA’s share of the funding equates to $1 a watt, which is nearly four times more than the 28c/watt asked by the 20 projects shortlisted from a group of more than 77 projects when the tender was first announced. This is despite the co-location cutting 20 per cent from the project’s costs.
Goldwind is the largest wind turbine manufacturer in the world. It recently began construction of the 175MW White Rock wind farm in northern NSW. It is one of the few developers with deep enough pockets to build a new plant on a “merchant” basis rather than a contract with a utility or corporate customer.
Asked about the apparent disparity between the Gullen Range project and the solar tender costings, an ARENA spokesman said Goldwind had made their application “several years ago” under a different ARENA program. He said the agency was keen to see the case for co-location of wind and solar farms to be proven.
Goldwind has also made the shortlist in the large scale solar tender to add a solar farm next to the White Rock wind project being built near Glen Innes, as did Infigen’s for its proposal to do the same next to the Capital wind farm.
Windlab’s proposal to combine wind and solar at the Kennedy hybrid complex made a preliminary shortlist of 22 projects, but did not make the final cut of 20, listed in the map below.
Because of the falling costs, it is expected that more than half of them may be able to get funded by ARENA, in what may be its last major funding round before the Coalition seeks to strip it of its remaining $1.3 billion in funds if it can get legislation through the Senate.
A recent ARENA analysis found there’s an estimated 1000MW of potential opportunities to add solar PV alongside existing wind farms.
In its statement on Tuesday, ARENA said that the Goldwind project could lay the groundwork for more solar plants to be built alongside wind farms, and so help large-scale solar costs to fall faster.
ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said solar and wind were complementary sources of renewable energy that produced power at different times of the day and year.
“Co-location provides more continuous energy generation, as wind farms tend to generate more energy overnight whilst solar only generates during the day. Gullen Wind Farm generates more power in winter and the new solar farm will generate more in summer,” Frischknecht said in a statement.
“Wind farm owners across Australia could benefit from adding solar plants to their existing sites. Developers can save money on grid connection, approvals and site development costs by co-locating wind and solar plants, whilst also reducing environmental impacts.
Interestingly, Frischknecht said that the co-loction could save $6 million, or around $20 per cent from the total project cost, which suggests that the base case for the solar farm is even further above those submitted to the ARENA tender.
“ARENA is focussed on bringing down the cost of renewable energy and encouraging more projects to enter the market,” Frischknecht said.
“This is the first project of its type in Australia, so the lessons learned will be invaluable. It has the potential to provide a blueprint for future projects and cement industry confidence in the approach.
“It could also unlock new markets for medium-scale solar PV projects, because scale isn’t as important for competitiveness when plants are co-located.”
The project is scheduled for completion in July 2017, with two years of knowledge sharing activities to follow