The largest solar farm in Western Australia – the 20MW Emu Downs facility north of Perth – has been completed and is a key part of what will become one of the largest wind-solar precincts in the country.
Emu Downs is the first solar farm to be co-located with a wind farm in WA, and in fact will be co-located with two different projects: the existing 80MW Emu Downs wind farm and the 130MW Badgingarra wind farm, now being built.
That 230MW wind-solar precinct will make it the largest of its type in Australia, beating the completed Gullen Range wind-solar project, and the White Rock wind-solar project that is nearing completion in northern NSW.
Emu Downs is also the first of the 12 large-scale solar farms funded under ARENA landmark solar program that has been credited with achieving a significant and rapid cost fall, and helping to bring dozens of other projects to market.
All the other projects in the ARENA funding round are under construction or have reached financial close. Three, in Griffith, Parkes and Dubbo in western NSW, are believed to be nearly complete.
Emu Downs – located 200km north of Perth near the town of Cervantes – is the second large-scale solar farm to be constructed on WA’s main grid. Greenough River near Geraldton, was built in 2012 and was the first large-scale solar farm in the country.
But Emu Downs’ status as the biggest in the state will not last long. A 30MW project at Byford, a 120MW project near Merredin by Stellata, and a 100MW project from Sun Brilliance are all expected to be complete within the next year. And Greenough River is also expanding.
ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the completion of the Emu Downs Solar Farm was a significant milestone for renewables in Australia.
“Before ARENA’s strong investment, large-scale solar remained in its infancy in Australia,” he said in a statement.
“The competitive round was critical in supporting the technology to becoming competitive and helping to close the gap that exists between large-scale solar PV and other commercially competitive forms of power generation, including wind energy.
“Beyond just funding a dozen new solar farms, this round acted as a catalyst to kickstart the large-scale solar industry in Australia, dramatically reducing the price of solar energy.”
Six years ago, there was just 10MW of solar in Australia, whereas this year there will be over 1800MW, with over 10GW in the pipeline.
(In fact, there is probably more than 20GW all told, including very early stage projects. Access the RenewEconomy/SunWiz data base for more details).
APA Group received $5.5 million towards the construction of Emu Downs – out of a total $92 million allocated by ARENA to projects totalling 492MW.
APA has entered into a 13-year power purchase agreement to sell electricity and renewable certificates generated by the solar farm to energy provider Synergy.
The farm uses single axis tracking technology from NextTracker and the company says the solar farm will fill the “energy gap” between the stronger wind patterns in the morning and afternoon in the region.
“APA is grateful for ARENA’s support over a number of years to get this exciting project, APA’s first solar farm, constructed and delivering an enhanced energy solution from our combined wind and solar farm,” APA CEO Mick McCormack said in a statement.
APA also owns the 110MW Darling Downs solar farm in Queensland, which is due for completion later this year.