The first large scale solar farm commissioned by Telstra, the telecoms giant that is one of the country’s biggest energy users, is up and running in Queensland.
The 68MW Emerald solar farm was built by RCR Tomlinson for RES Australia, but its entire output is contracted to Telstra – the first of a series of landmark renewable energy deals made by Telstra to look to renewables to cap and contain its considerable electricity costs.
Tesla has also led a consortium of other corporate buyers who have agreed to take the output from the first 226MW stage of the Murra Warra wind farm in Victoria, and has made its intention known that it will support other solar projects too.
“We get to lock in costs for one of our major inputs, energy, for the long term at well below current prices,” James Gerraty, Telstra Energy’s general manager for strategy and commercial, said at the time.
There has been speculation, too, that Telstra could finally make good on a plan to challenge Australia’s incumbent energy utilities and launch a major charge into the energy market, although nothing concrete has been heard to date.
The switching on of the Emerald solar farm is just the latest in a rush of new large scale solar additions to the grid. As we noted last week, the Bannerton solar farm in Victoria is now operating, and the second stage of the country’s largest solar farm to date, Bungala, in South Australia has connected (although delayed by strike action).
The 150MW Colleambally solar farm in NSW is also operating, although not yet at full strength, the Whitsunday solar farm has also begin generating, while the likes of the neighbouring Daydream and Hayman solar farms are nearly complete.
Last week also saw the completion of the White Rock solar farm, making the second solar-wind hybrid to be completed in the National Electricity Market, although the Emu Downs wind-solar is also operating in the separate WA market.
Telstra, of course, is not the only big corporate consumer looking to lock in low prices from long term contracts with wind and solar farms.
Zinc refiner Sun Metals has done the same thing, and its 116MW solar farm opened a few months ago, Nectar Farms is turning to wind and battery storage to underpin its massive vegetable glass-house in Victoria, and Sanjeev Gupta is looking to solar and storage to revive the fortunes of the Whyalla steelworks and his steel operations in Victoria and NSW.
And there are many others.
Giles Parkinson is founder and editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, and is also the founder of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and founder/editor of www.TheDriven.io. Giles has been a journalist for 35 years and is a former business and deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review.