South Australia’s second big solar farm gets generation licence, to start production

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Vena gets generation licence for the second big solar farm in South Australia, with commissioning to begin in a few weeks.

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The second big solar farm in already renewables-rich South Australia has won its generation licence from the state’s regulator, and plans to start commissioning the project in a few weeks, with full production scheduled for mid April.

The 108MW Tailem Bend solar farm – about 95kms south-east of Adelaide – is being built by Singapore-based Vena Energy, now part of Global Infrastructure Partners, and has contracted all of its output to the federal government-owned generator and retailer Snowy Hydro for 22 years.

The $170 million Tailem Bend project will join the Bungala solar project near Port Augusta as the first large-scale solar projects to begin production in South Australia, as the emphasis gradually switches from large-scale wind and rooftop solar, to a more balanced portfolio of wind, solar, rooftop and growing amounts of battery and then pumped hydro storage.

Bungala’s first stage of 120MW is in full production, while the second 120MW stage is still being completed. Other solar projects are planned by Simec Zem (280MW near Whyalla, Adani Renewables (160MW near Whyalla), and two massive solar and storage projects proposed by EPS.

South Australia is tipped by the Australian Energy Market Operator to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of its electricity needs from wind and solar by 2026, although weather-based fluctuations means that it will continue to export at times, and import at others – hence the need for improved and added connections to other state grids.

The Tailem Bend solar farm is rated at 108MC (AC), but will only be allowed to export a maximum of 95MW (AC) at any one time as the result of new rules laid down by AEMO to ensure such facilities can deliver sufficient “reactive power”, and not diminish the grid’s reliability.

When first announced, Snowy Hydro had said it planned a new 28MW diesel peaking plant to be built nearby, but those plans were dropped last year. Vena has said a second stage of the project, potentially with a significant amount of battery storage, may go ahead at some stage.

Vena’s Anil Nangia said there was no doubt that the rules were getting tougher for new wind and solar plants, particularly in South Australia. He said Vena was aware of the rules before it reached financial close, and chose to address the issue by installing more inverters. Others have chosen a similar path or used capacitor banks instead.

Nangia told Renewconomy that having gained its generator licence from the Essential Services Commission of South Australia, and its AEMO registration, Vena expects to start exporting to the grid in mid February, with a “fair bit of testing” to do and full commercial operations expected in April.

Vena (formerly Equis Energy) invests only in renewable energy and says it is the largest renewable energy IPP (independent power producer) in Asia. It funds its own equity investments.

The facility is using Schneider inverters, mounting systems from Australia’s based IXL, and Jinko solar panels. UGL is the main contractor.

 

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