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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