Neoen starts on 150MW solar plant in NSW – just a year from initial “idea” | RenewEconomy

Neoen starts on 150MW solar plant in NSW – just a year from initial “idea”

Neoen says 150MW solar project shows 2000MW of solar and storage could be brought into production faster and cheaper than Snowy 2.0.


French renewable energy and battery storage developer Neoen has reached financial close on its 150MW Coleambally solar project in NSW, and has begun construction barely a year from forming the initial idea.

The project, near Griffith in the south-west of the state, will join another 110MW of solar farms – in Dubbo, Parkes and Griffith – that are nearing completion by Neoen in NSW.

Franck Woitiez, the CEO of Neoen’s Australian operations, said the speed with which the project evolved from initiation and site selection to construction is significant.

“We started developing this idea a year ago. We found the land, we signed a PPA (power purchase agreement), and organised the grid connection,” Woitiez told RenewEconomy.

“Now we have reached financing and it will be in production before the end of the year. That is less than two years from idea to production.”

Woitiez says there are many projects like Coleambally in the pipeline, and all could be brought to market quicker and cheaper than a massive pumped hydro scheme like the $8 billion Snowy 2.0.

“You could build 2,000MW of solar, add storage, and provide reliable and dispathable and cheap electricity in half the time of hydro, and at a lower cost.”

That is sure to be part of an ongoing debate over the future of energy in Australia.

The federal government is proposing to intervene in the market and invest at least $8 billion in the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro scheme, despite questions about its financial viability and its environmental impact.

But others suggest it might be better left to the market, with the right policy signals, to get the equivalent amount of reliable power, sourced from wind and solar rather than coal, and cheaper. And built across the network where it is needed.

This is the vision of network operators such as Transgrid, and the Australian Energy Market Operator, which has recommended the creation of a series of renewable energy hubs (including in NSW), as part of its Integrated Supply Plan that we reported on in December (and which has suddenly be taken up by mainstream media).

Neoen is the owner of the Tesla big battery, officially known as Hornsdale Power Reserve, which is located next to its 305MW Hornsdale wind farm in South Australia.

Woitiez says the battery has been performing “beyond expectations” in its first two months. He said Colleambally is capable of adding storage, but no decision has been made yet.

The Coleambally solar farm signed a 12-year PPA with EnergyAustralia last year – for 70 per cent of the output – although the price details of the contract have not been released (they never are).

The project has also received $30 million in debt finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which noted that NSW has the largest electricity demand in Australia, but a relatively low penetration of large-scale solar generation.

CEFC also provided a total of $150 million finance for the 110MW of projects at Parkes, Dubbo and Griffith that also received funding under the large scale solar program led by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

Those projects are now connected, and waiting final permissioning, after having to overcome new rules imposed by AEMO on the performance of large scale solar farms and their ability to ride through voltage swings.

“We are pleased to support Neoen’s investments in the construction of new solar generation in New South Wales,” CEFC Large-Scale solar lead Monique Miller said.

“As well as driving lower emissions and regional employment, these investments are delivering renewable energy to large population centres.”

EnergyAustralia’s head of energy Mark Collette congratulated Neoen on reaching financial close for the project.

“The Coleambally solar farm is a great example of the projects that will underpin a modern energy system in Australia. We’re proud to be partnering with Neoen to bring it to market, so households continue to receive affordable, reliable and cleaner supplies of power,” Collette said in a statement.

The Coleambally Solar Farm is five kilometres north east of Coleambally, and 70 kilometres south of Griffith. The development is part a growing stable of NSW solar projects developed by Neoen with CEFC finance.

Neoen also received finance from European based financial institutions NORD/LB and KfW Ipex.


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  1. Joe 3 years ago

    Memo to Neon and Franck…we want The Big Battery in NSW like you did in SA. C’mon, add The Big Battery!

    • rob 3 years ago

      NOPE JOE! That is just for us !

  2. Jon 3 years ago

    From concept to starting construction in 12 months mths is very impressive, especially when construction start to online is scheduled for less than 12 months.

    I for one really hope that Snowy 2 gets up, as impressive as the HPR battery is (and I live ve it) Snowy hydro does a different job.
    HPR works in the small peaks and troughs charging in the peaks and discharging in the troughs with the Neoen owned capacity and grid stabilisation in the SA gov owned capacity.
    Snowy 2,0.
    Although Snowy hydro doesn’t look like it makes sense with NSWs current energy mix it will be a big enabler to build a lot of renewable generation and time shift large amounts of energy and time shift it in a grid which is only going to become more mismatched in generation and usage timing.
    Yes it will take a lot more time to build than the HPR but it is doing a different job.
    To me it makes much more sense than more pumped hydro in Tas, it’s in the middle of the NEM grid rather than hanging off one end, upgrading transmission to help tie in more capacity at Snowy will be cheap compared to twinning Basslink.
    Comparing Snowy 2 to HPR is like comparing Tesla’s truck to a Tesla model 3, both very cool, both very sustainable but do very different jobs and in my opinion both very needed

    • Hettie 3 years ago

      Mmmm. No one can deny that the sun doesn’t shine 24 hrs a day, or that there are several to many days in the year when clouds and rain obscure it. BUT the hours from sundown to sunrise are utterly predictable, and clouds and rain are also somewhat predictable at any given location.
      What receives less attention is the fact that cloud cover is seldom present across large areas of Australia at the same time. One of the beauties of solar is that it can be installed all over the place. If it’s cloudy here today, it will be brilliantly clear somewhere else.
      Obviously, that reduces the importance of cloud on the overall production of solar farms. And – amazing but true, although we do tend to want lights and TV well past sundown, most business, educational and industrial processes keep to the daylight hours, so overnight demand is low. AND wind, though variable in any one site, is not variable the same way at any other site. Plus it does blow at night.
      Surely this means that many smallish wind and solar installations, spread across a wide geographic area, will produce a fairly steady supply of power.
      Storage needs are not nearly as great as the doomsayers pretend.
      As for Snowy 2, I suspect that by the time it is functional, if indeed it ever is, there will be so many small pumped hydro systems up and running in some of those 22,000 suitable let sites identified last year that no one will need it. White elephant. Vastly expensive, glacially slow, probably redundant.
      And battery prices will have dropped enough to make them feasible for mass storage as well as for their lightening fast response.
      The times they are a changin’.
      We just need bloody AEMC to get the hell out of the way, and the RWNJs to fall into a volcano with Tony’s goats.
      Somebody pour me a brandy.

      • Ian 3 years ago

        Beautifully put. Unless large amounts of solar and wind are installed in diverse places, we won’t know for sure how much percentage of the country’s electricity can be supplied reliably by renewables. Any inland area 150km from the coast in Australia has far more sunny days than cloudy days – This is the driest continent after all – so not much storage will be needed to achieve very high reliability factors. There are so many swings and roundabouts between wind and solar resources that natural smoothing of electricity supply can be expected. I suspect there will be a lot of stranded assets on the way to a 100% reliable, 100% renewables grid. Snowy2.0 and Basslink II may be amongst white-elephant herd.

        • Hettie 3 years ago

          Thank you, kind sir.
          You have a neat turn of phrase yourself.

        • neroden 3 years ago

          If Tasmania gets their heads out of their asses and installs the wind which they have (massive) potential for, they’ll be routinely overproducing, and Basslink II will probably help by allowing them to send excess to Victoria.

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