Queensland Yarranlea solar farm completed, joins queue for network approval | RenewEconomy

Queensland Yarranlea solar farm completed, joins queue for network approval

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Risen Energy joins “months-long” grid connection queue after completing construction of 121MW Yarranlea solar farm west of Toowoomba in August.

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Construction of Risen Energy’s 121MW Yarranlea solar farm west of Toowoomba, in Queensland, has been completed, putting it in the queue of large-scale renewables projects awaiting the green light to start sending power to the grid.

Risen, which acquired the solar farm in early 2018, said on Monday that its construction had been completed in August, and the facility had entered the “several months” long commission and compliance phase, including testing with the Australian Energy Marketing Organisation.

“We are currently in the continuous testing phase which is dependent on the network service provider and network operators and will be commercially operational in early 2020,” said Risen’s general manager for Australia, Eric Lee.

“Part of the commissioning is considering network constraints and we are working with Ergon Energy to maximise power output while minimising impacts to the network”, he said.

As we reported here, Risen bought the project – which had been under development by a company of the same name, Yarranlea Solar – in February 2018, announcing plans to go ahead with the build without a power purchase agreement.

Risen’s director of project development and investment at the time, John Zhong, said that the company could do all this on a merchant basis, and without a PPA, thanks to the competitive nature of Australia’s energy prices.

But that same environment has also seen the market operator AEMO struggling to accommodate a rush of new capacity coming onto the NEM, and creating a connection bottleneck. AEMO has warned that full commissioning could take up to 18 months in some cases.

New wind and solar farms are usually required to reach various “hold points” and can’t move on to higher capacity until the network and market operator are satisfied that all is well.

In Queensland, the Kennedy wind, solar, and battery project has been completed for nearly a year, but is still yet to get its connection finalised, and won’t until the New Year. In South Australia, the Bungala stage 2 solar farm has been held at a 20MW hold point for months.

The Yarranlea Solar Farm will be connected to the grid via existing Ergon Energy infrastructure, located close to the project site, allowing for transmission of power into the Middle Ridge Bulk Supply Substation, to supply the Toowoomba and Darling Downs area.

Risen says that ultimately, integrated battery storage will be incorporated in the solar farm to provide continuous power during periods of peak demand.

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5 Comments
  1. Ken Dyer 6 months ago

    Hopefully, the new interconnector to NSW may provide a stable demand, and hasten network access for RE.

  2. Sam 6 months ago

    Going merchant in QLD. Interesting to see how it goes.

  3. Seriously...? 6 months ago

    But innovative new nuclear plants are all ready to go, just as soon as they get the engineering and design and testing and financing and safety and compliance and politics and regulation and community consultation and supply chains and building and training and commissioning out the way. Should be any minute now!

  4. Ian 6 months ago

    Risen shouldn’t makes such a big Zhong and dance about the connection issues.

    They built this solar farm without any PPA and felt they could go Merchant. Ie there would be a place for them in the sun.

    Have you seen a map of all the solar farms being developed in the south west darling downs?

    It’s like one farmer being successful growing strawberries and then everyone tries to jump on the bandwagon and grow strawberries too. Eventually you can’t give the product away. You actually need 1. A transmission infrastructure and 2. a market.

    Like many of these developments, they add in the promise of batteries- later on, maybe.

    This half hearted sort of promise to install batteries is a good indicator that solar farm developers in particular know what they need to do to shift their energy production to different time slots of the day, and they are asking for certainty and help to make this sort of investment worthwhile.

    If the solar farm developer is prepared to install a decent amount of battery capacity immediately, then their connection should be fast tracked and their Marginal loss factor reduced. Considering that a 100MW farm could be delayed a year or so from commissioning and connecting perspective, they could lose out on 100x 5 x 365 about 200 000MWH of revenue ie $10 to $20 million which could be a decent down-payment on a 100MWH battery. If the MLF could be reduced by 5% due to a battery installation that could be worth about 200 000 x 0.05 x $50 to $100/MWH about $500 000 to $1 million a year. This could be a reasonable sweetener to help encourage these developers to install batteries.

    There are further benefits to installing a battery: the wholesale price can vary from zero to over $100/MWH but say on average this is $50/MWH for energy generated but time shifted to a better wholesale price: 40000 MWH time shifted a year x $50/MWH= $2 million a year (could be double that or 1/2 that)

    Considering that utility scale batteries are probably at $600 000/MWH the cost of a 100MWH battery would probably be $60 million.

    How to actually optimise the economics so that sufficient utility side batteries are installed to 1. Reduce line congestion 2. To reduce competition for the midday peak solar generation 3. Time shift solar production to the morning or evening peaks.

    The cost reduction curve for utility scale batteries should be relatively quick over the next 2 to 4 years. So to reduce the financial burden on developers, The bargaining chips of MLF and speed of connection and commissioning that was discussed above, could be linked to say an immediate installation of 0.5 MWH of battery for every 1MW solar capacity and a grace period of 2 to 4 years for another 0.5 MWH battery per 100MW solar.

    • Ian 6 months ago

      The investor appetite for solar and wind in Australia and the hardship the existing projects are experiencing getting access to the grid is not an opportunity to be missed to get some decent utility side battery storage built.

      We should not be so desperate to see the buildout of renewables without getting some of these investors to share in the responsibility for reliability of supply.

      Considering that in 2018 1.5GW of utility scale solar was installed without battery storage , that’s an opportunity lost to have had up to 1.5 GWH of battery storage built. 2019 is almost done that’s probably another 2GWH of storage opportunity lost.

      How long will the Australian RE investor swan think it’s an ugly duckling?

      Some are so worried about our geriatric coal power stations retiring that we are rapidly missing the boat to get utility side batteries installed.

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