Carnegie Clean Energy says it has won development approval for its proposed 10MW solar farm near Northam in Australia’s wheat-belt region, and says “there should be lots of these” in the country.
The proposed solar farm’s latest milestone is winning approval from the Mid-West/Wheatbelt Joint Development Assessment Panel (JDAP), one of a number of final approvals required for the project.
Carnegie chief executive Michael Ottaviano told an energy storage conference in Sydney on Thursday that Carnegie is getting close to a final investment decision. He expects the project to be complete by the end of the year.
“We should have lots of these solar farms …. in Western Australia it hasn’t been encouraged. But the economics can make it work,” he said.
Indeed, WA has only one solar farm, the 10MW Greenough River solar farm completed in 2012. But while partly funded by the state-owned generator, it was not warmly welcomed by the conservative state government at the time.
The then energy minister Peter Collier said he hoped he never had to open another solar farm. And Collier got his wish, so much so that between 2014 and 2016, a paltry 2.6MW – yes, just two point six megawatts – of new renewable energy capacity was added to WA’s grid (apart from small rooftop solar).
That is now changing with the arrival of a new government. Greenough River is to be expanded to 40MW, a 30MW solar farm is planned for Perth’s outskirts, another 20MW solar farm is to be built by APA, and two solar farms of more than 100MW are also nearing final investment approval.
Ottaviano suggested that the 10MW Northam solar farm might strike a mixture of power purchase agreements and merchant prices, given the high prices for both wholesale electricity and large-scale renewable energy certificates in the market at the moment.
“We plan to have it operating by the end of the year,” he told the conference.
Carnegie is also working on micro-grids and renewables and storage, and this week was selected by the US State Department to help lead a UN Sustainable Energy program to bring renewable energy, particularly in the form of micro-grids, to developing countries.
Ottaviano said there were thousands of island and remote communities that should be using a combination of renewables and storage rather than burning diesel
Renewable and battery storage was also a powerful economic driver in Western Australia, particularly in remote regions at the edge of the grid that were prone to bush fires, storms and other interruptions.
Carnegie has now installed more than a dozen stand alone power systems for both Western Power and Horizon Energy.
“It is just a cheaper, cleaner more secure solution than the alternative,” Ottaviano said. “The cost of technology is coming down. What was an economic driver for remotes systems, is now true for the fringe of grid and on the main grid too.”