Queensland’s largest solar power plant to date, the 25MW Barcaldine Regional Community Solar Farm, has begun generating and feeding electricity into the grid – just months after construction started on the project in July, and two months ahead of schedule.
The $70 million, 90 hectare solar farm, which comprises more than 78,000 single axis tracking solar panels, was first proposed to the community in March 2015, and in December received $22.8 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
At the time, ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the project, sited in central western Queensland, would demonstrate the benefits renewable generation could deliver at the edges of Australia’s sprawling national electricity network.
The project, developed by Elecnor Australia, was also a recipient of $20 million in debt finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).
In comments on Wednesday, Frischknecht said Barcaldine’s ahead-of-schedule development demonstrated the industry was getting faster and more proficient at developing big solar projects.
“Barcaldine was one of the first ARENA-funded solar plants and has helped pave the way for the next generation of 12 large-scale solar farms to be built across the country by the end of next year.
“Supported by ARENA, six big solar plants in Queensland, five in New South Wales and one in Western Australia are expected to triple Australia’s large-scale solar capacity providing enough energy to power 150,000 average Australian homes.”
“ARENA’s unprecedented investment in large-scale solar is expected to unlock almost $1 billion in commercial investment and boost regional economies,” he said.
“As well as generating clean energy, the project is demonstrating how project developers can monetise network benefits and ultimately how solar farms can improve network efficiency and reliability at the edge of the grid,” Frischknecht said.
CEFC large-scale solar lead Gloria Chan echoed Frischknecht’s comments, that the speed of the Barcaldine development highlighted the potential and growing maturity of Australia’s big solar industry.
“The Barcaldine Solar Farm has been a fast build, demonstrating how knowledge and expertise developed for Australian conditions is benefiting the entire solar sector,” Ms Chan said.
“Shorter construction times, increased knowledge, and access to suitable finance are among factors helping bring these kinds of projects down the cost curve. Construction of this solar farm in a fringe-of-grid location will also provide important learnings for other off-grid remote area solar PV projects.”
Barcaldine Mayor Rob Chandler said the local community, having supported the project from development to construction, was celebrating the new milestone.
“The people in our district are enthusiastic supporters of solar energy and the great benefits it can bring to outback communities like ours. If it’s one thing we have a lot of its sun so it’s great to see it being harnessed to power the electricity grid.”
Elecnor business developer manager Manuel Lopez-Velez said the solar farm was expected to be operating at full generation in the next couple of weeks.
“Barcaldine Solar Farm when fully operational will generate around 57,000 MWh of clean energy per year, an energy consumption equivalent to approximately 9,800 households,” Lopez-Velez said.