The owners of the 256MW Kiamal solar farm – the biggest solar project in Victoria to date – say they have stepped in to complete the commissioning of the long-delayed project.
The announcement was one working day after RenewEconomy revealed late last week that Greek-based Ellaktor, the parent of contracting group Biosar”, had accumulated huge losses from its portfolio of six solar projects in Australia, including Kiamal, and was exiting the market.
The statement from French-based Total Eren, which is the majority owner of Kiamal (the Clean Energy Finance Corp has a small stake) surprisingly makes no mention of Ellaktor’s statement, but cites instead the issues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the lack of travel.
“Kiamal Solar Farm has been under construction by an EPC Consortium between Canadian Solar and Biosar Australia (the EPC Contractor) and today is substantially complete with all major equipment installed onsite,” Total Eren said in a statement.
“To help mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 which has hindered the free movement of people internationally and inter-state, the owners of Kiamal Solar Farm have temporarily stepped-in to manage commissioning works on site with the assistance of Beon, a local Victorian-based electrical contractor.
“Responsibility for the finalisation works at Kiamal Solar Farm will be handed back to the EPC Contractor once fully commissioned. The EPC Contractor continues to be onsite and after the temporary step-in period, the EPC Contractor will remain responsible for the performance of Kiamal Solar Farm, including having a primary role during the operations of the project.”
The “step in” is highly unusual, although not unheard of in Australia, and has happened when other contractors have reached crisis, such as the failure of RCR Tomlinson.
Kiamal is believed to be the source of much of the €113 million ($A178 million) in losses reported by Ellaktor in its annual results last week because of its size, the delays, and the anticipated scale of “liquidated damages” payments, where the contractor is held responsible for any lost revenue, although they could be capped in this case.
Kiamal has been one of a number of large scale wind and solar projects that has been held up by connection delays, at least partly through the newly discovered “system strength” issues, and the “oscillation” issues that caused five existing solar farms in that part of the grid, known as West Murray, to have their output cut in half.
Those “oscillation” issues were solved late last month, allowing the five solar farms to resume full production, and prompted the Australian Energy Market Operator to resume connections and commissioning for a host of large scale wind and solar projects that were in the queue – some are largely complete.
Kiamal, which has already installed, but not connected, a large synchronous condenser in response to anticipated system strength shortfalls in the region, is believed to be near the top of the list of the connections queue, but neither AEMO nor the various project developers have commented on this.
AEMO has also been conducting a tender to help solve the system strength issues, which experts expect to result in payments for syncons such as Kiamal’s to provide the “synchronous” power needed in that part of the grid.
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