Victoria's Cohuna solar farm complete, joins queue for commissioning | RenewEconomy

Victoria’s Cohuna solar farm complete, joins queue for commissioning

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Cohuna solar farm now complete and awaiting commissioning, as contractor Tempo says it is looking for more opportunities in the solar space.

Cohuna solar farm. Source: Tempo Services.
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The 34MW Cohuna solar farm in Victoria has completed construction, and has now joined the queue for commissioning in the state’s troubled West Murray region.

Tempo Services, the principal contractor for the Cohuna solar farm, told shareholders at the annual meeting last week that the solar farm – one of six large scale wind and solar projects that won a reverse auction conducted by the Victorian government in 2018 – was now mechanically complete. “Construction is complete and ready for commissioning,” CEO Paul Dalgleish said in a presentation.

It will join more than a dozen new wind and solar farms queuing for commissioning in the West Murray region, which has been hit by “system strength” issues, and “voltage oscillation” problems that caused the Australian Energy Market Operator to reduce the output of five solar farms in the region by half for seven months until the issue was resolved.

It is not publicly known where Cohuna, or any other waiting project for that matter, sits in the connection queue. AEMO has published a “sequential” plan to connect the new projects, but has not identified the order. The 198MW Silverton wind farm near Broken Hill was clearly at or near the top of the list and is now operating without constraints for the first time since it was constructed in 2018.

Cohuna, near the town of Echuca, is Tempo’s first venture into the solar contracting space, and it had a troubled start, with work at the solar farm and the company’s shares suspended within a few weeks of the start of construction as it became clear there were risks of cost over-runs or delays.

It resumed work after re-negotiating its $15 million contract with Italian project owner Enel Green Power, and effectively putting a cap on its exposure to potential cost over-runs that it had described as “untenable”. It describes the change as a switch to a “target cost” contract rather than a “lump sum” contract.

Tempo then hired Dalgleish as the new CEO. Dalgleish, as the former CEO of the collapsed contracting giant RCR Tomlinson, will have been very familiar with the issue of cost over-runs, given the experience at the majority of the 15 solar projects RCR was contracted to build, and which was the prime cause of the collapse cited by administrators and liquidators McGrath Nicol.

Dalgleish’s presentation to shareholders last week indicated that Tempo – unlike many other contractors that have quit the market – is still looking for large scale solar contracts, although it was not clear whether this would be as principal contractor, or for balance of plant works.

RenewEconomy sought to contact Tempo to seek more information, but its calls were not returned.

Cohuna is the third large scale solar project for Enel Green Power, a subsidiary of the Italian energy giant Enel. It also owns the Bungala 1 and Bungala 2 solar projects near Port Augusta in South Australia.

Both Bungala projects were sized at 110MW (ac) and together should have amounted to the largest solar project in Australia to date, but Bungala 2 has been hit by what Enel describes as “technical issues’ and has been limited to a maximum output of 20MW and has rarely produced any output at all in recent weeks.

Enel has reported losses of €43 million ($A73.5 million) to its accounts in the last year because of the delays and its impact on the value of its power purchase agreements (with Origin Energy).

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