Singleton Solar Farm: Big Solar no one wanted, set to be switched back on

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One of Australia’s largest solar arrays is set to be switched back on, more than 15 years after it was built by the NSW government.

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Singleton Solar Farm
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One of Australia’s largest solar arrays is set to be switched back on, more than 15 years after it was built by the NSW government.

The 407kW Singleton Solar Farm in NSW’s Hunter Valley was sold by power distributor Ausgrid in June this year to family-owned company XYZ Solar.

It was originally constructed in 1998/99 as part of the 2000 Olympics, along with the 70kW Sydney Superdome array, which was also sold to XYZ Solar.

And though it is now dwarfed by the recently opened 20MW Royalla Solar Farm, it is believed to have remained the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere until about 2002 and the biggest in Australia until around 2005.

XYZ Solar’s operations manager – and a former Hunter Valley power station apprentice – Andrew Thaler, says Singleton’s advanced size, for its time, was overclouded by concerns over grid integration and variability – things that were thereafter found to be a non-issue.

“There were some theories at the time amongst energy people that a sudden cloud cover over a 400kW PV array could lead to voltage control issues and that local Zone substations might trip out,” Thaler said in an email.

Thaler, who also has plans to construct a community-funded solar farm on his land in Nimmitabel in Southern NSW, has refurbished the nearly 17-year old infrastructure, and will throw a party next weekend for the switching back on of the Singleton Solar Farm.

Singleton Solar Farm
Singleton Solar Farm

In June, he revealed his hopes to introduce community participation to expand the existing 2.75 hectare site (about the size of five football fields), by building a community farm adjacent to the existing installation, with the aim of extending the project to 5MW – the highest it can supply on the existing high voltage power lines.

“There is immeasurable potential for solar it just needs skill, tenacity and the will of the people in the region to become a reality,” he told the Singleton Argus.

“It’s a big challenge and a discussion that needs to take place to change people’s perception on solar.”

Today, Thaler says the transition to renewables continues “irrespective” of federal government ideology.

“The NSW government abandoned the farm, no longer wanting to invest in its upkeep and sold it off,” he said – although Thaler is full of praise of the NSW government back in 1998 for taking the bold step of investing in the solar farm in the first place.

“Maybe the current and future NSW governments can be politely reminded of the benefits that flow from some level of public participation in a strong renewables sector,” he said.

“I privately believe in renewable energy and spent my private money on purchasing it, fixing it and now expanding it.”

Thaler says he has, so far, done enough work at the solar farm to switch on at least 250kW of PV. But more money is needed to buy more solar panels and replace the approx 230kW of dead inverters on both Singleton and the Superdome.

“The Local council support the expansion of (Singleton Solar Farm) and have declared so publicly. …I plan to reinvest most of the SSF revenue into expanding it and open it up to public participation/ investment via ‘community energy.”

Thaler also notes that the farm was one of the earliest renewable systems approved under the Green Power schemes – which was, ironically, installed and operated successfully in one of the largest coal mining areas in the world – and as such provides an important message that the schemes are long term, sustainable and worthwhile.

“(It) creates LGC’s (Large-scale Generation Certificates) which are an important part of our current electrical generation industrial system and all sides of govt have largely indicated that they are obliged to retain at least this function (LGC creation) if not the current 41GWh target. Public opinion is certainly & solidly centred around keeping the 41GW target if not increasing it,” Thaler said.

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11 Comments
  1. Chris Fraser 4 years ago

    More power to you, Andrew. All the very best in this still-emerging enterprise !

    • Andrew Thaler 4 years ago

      Thanks Chris.

      • Loretta Hofman 4 years ago

        this is amazing !!!! so happy to hear!! im in singleton and my husband works at that awful power station at musswellbrook…I hope solar takes over Australia even if it puts him out of a job 🙂

  2. Andrew Thaler 4 years ago

    Singleton Solar farm has a (small) Facebook page with information on the Open Invitation ‘Switch it back ON’ BBQ brekky event scheduled for Friday morning (from 7am) December 12th.
    For the super-dooper keen people, dinner on Thursday night in Singleton with the Discussion topic of ‘Renewables Vs Nuclear Vs Conventional Fuels’ and there will be at dinner with us Dr Julian Kelly, one of the very small number of people in the whole world who is actually, presently, engaged in a Plutonium/Thorium Fission reaction in a working energy producing ‘nookleah’ reactor in Norway- check out http://www.thorenergy.no
    Limited places left… mssg me any RSVP’s- [email protected]

    • Alan Anderson 4 years ago

      Hi Andrew, I take it that was Thursday the 4th?

      • Andrew Thaler 4 years ago

        No, dinner is this Thursday the 11th and the switch on friday 12th.

  3. Alan Baird 4 years ago

    Well done! It might go some way to restoring the hinterland around Singleton. Got to be an improvement. Mind you, Joe might find it all a bit offensive, preferring the “pitholes” either side of the road to Muswellbrook. Some of the loveliest holes in Australia he reckons.

    • Andrew Thaler 4 years ago

      I won’t let them dig up the coal under the solar farm 🙂

  4. Rob G 4 years ago

    Exciting stuff! Nice to be at the forefront of a soon the be normal way to supply power. Good on you Andrew for sticking with it, you are most certainly on the right side of this equation!

  5. coomadoug 4 years ago

    Great work champ. Sorry I cant get up there to throw the switch and sing a few songs.

    • Andrew Thaler 4 years ago

      I’ll play the Wombat song for you in your absence Doug…

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