The 100MW Merredin solar farm – by far the biggest in the state of Western Australia to date – has started sending power to the grid in the first phase of its commissioning process.
The solar farm – near the wheat-belt town of the same name – is owned by Risen Energy and began sending output to the local grid a few days ago. Under a four stage commissioning process it will initially be able to export up to 20 per cent of its capacity, then up to 50 per cent in its second stage, and 80 per cent in the third stage before reaching full output in stage four.
The biggest wind farm in state 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.
Remarkably, for a state with such excellent solar resources, and more than 1,300MW of rooftop solar, Merredin will be one of just a handful of large scale solar farms on the state’s main grid.
It will join the country 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.
Large scale solar farms also being installed in the Pilbara, where big iron ore mines are turning to solar and storage to reduce the high cost of gas generation and to improve reliability. At least two solar plants – one of 60MW, and two more totalling 150MW, are planned by Fortescue Metals and Alinta Energy.
Much large solar arrays are in the pipeline, but these are mostly associated with renewable hydrogen or export facilities, such as the massive 15GW Asia Renewable Energy Hub in the Pilbara, a 5GW project put forward by a consortium led by Siemens near Geraldton, and a 1.5GW project proposed by BP.
The Merredin solar farm is located close to Western Power’s Merredin Terminus, as is the rarely used Merredin diesel generator. In fact, in its first few days of partial production, the solar farm has produced more than twice as much as the neighbouring diesel generator produced in all of the last 12 months (see table above sourced from AEMO).
The diesel generator, however, despite operating for the equivalent of three hours in the whole year, pocketed $11.4 million in “capacity” payments, just for being there. In nine years, it has rarely been switched on, apart from maintenance and testing. It produced a total 264 megawatt hours last year, The neighbouring solar farm will produce about 281,000 megawatt hours a year.