Construction is set to begin on what stands to be – at least for the time being – Queensland ’s largest solar plant, the 25MW Barcaldine Regional Community Solar Farm in central-western Queensland.
The project’s developers, Elecnor, said last week that construction of the plant would start in July, following the commencement of pre-construction works this week.
The $70 million, 90 hectare solar farm was first proposed to the community in March 2015, and in December received $22.8 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which recognised its potential as an “ideal” site for solar, because of its abundant sunshine, consistently high temperatures, and close proximity to a transmission substation and gas power station.
At the time, ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the project would demonstrate the benefits renewable generation could deliver 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.”
Elecnor business development manager Manuel López-Vélez said on Friday the project, which will use single-axis tracking technology for its 79,000 PV panels, was expected to be completed and supplying electricity to the grid by mid-2017.
All told, the plant is expected to provide about 10 per cent of Australia’s large-scale solar electricity, generating 56,000kWh of electricity a year, and may incorporate battery storage in the future.
As ARENA’s Frischknecht has noted, storage 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.
“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.”
Barcaldine Regional Council mayor Rob Chandler said the project also offered a “great boost” to regional employment.
“There are about 400 unemployed people in Western Queensland,” he said.
“There will be many bodies needed to bolt down the around 80,000 panels needed to generate about 28megawatts of power to be fed into the state grid through the Ergon substation here in Barcaldine.
“The project ticks all the boxes, it may well be a tourist attraction as well,” he said.