The 100MW Merredin solar farm – by far the biggest in the state of Western Australia to date – has reached its full generation capacity in a timeline that would be the envy of solar developers and owners in the eastern states.
The project’s developers, Risen Energy, said on Wednesday that it had worked closely with network service provider Western Power and the Australian Energy Market Operator through the staged live commissioning process, and Merredin was now exporting 100% capacity output, compatible with the grid’s requirements.
“It has been a pleasure to work with Western Power and their smooth coordination with AEMO has enabled us to reach this milestone of achieving a fully operational solar facility which will supply green power,” said Risen Australia general manager Eric Lee.
The solar farm – near the wheat-belt town of the same name – began construction in the middle of last year and is one of three big wind and solar projects that will join the WA grid in 2020.
The biggest wind farm in the state, the 212MW Yandin facility north of Perth, began exporting to the grid earlier this month and follow a similarly staged commissioning process. The 180MW Warradarge wind farm, also north of Perth, is also due to start generating to the grid soon. Together, the three new projects will double the large scale renewable energy capacity in the state.
According to Risen, Merredin has been one of the fastest builds of a large-scale solar farm seen in Australia, yet, with the mechanical completion of the project achieved in just three months in collaboration with WA’s Monford Group.
The efficiency of the project’s development and its swift ramping up to 100% generation capacity mark a striking contrast to comparable projects in NEM states, where grid connection problems have been looming large.
As RenewEconomy editor Giles Parkinson writes here this week, despite the Australian Energy Market Operator’s considerable efforts in laying out a 20-year blueprint for a rapid energy transition, existing large-scale solar and wind projects are finding themselves blocked by current grid congestion.
The biggest solar projects to be built in NSW face major cutbacks in the south-west of the state, three big wind and solar projects in north Queensland have had their output reduced to zero for much of the last month, and the new Dundonnel wind farm in Victoria has had its commissioning delayed, due to unspecified grid issues.
That said, Western Australia has some catching up to do. While the state has more than 1,300MW of rooftop solar, Merredin marks one of just a handful of large-scale solar farms on the state’s main grid.
It will join the country’s first grid-scale solar farm, Greenough River (now being upgraded from 10MW to 40MW), and the smaller Emu Downs and Badgingarra solar farms that are co-located with wind installations. There is also a 9.6MW solar farm at Northam.