Advanced PV modules set benchmark for utility-scale solar

Advanced PV modules set benchmark for utility-scale solar
AGL CEO Andy Vesey (left) with NSW Minister for Industry Resources and Energy Anthony Roberts

The final advanced PV module has been installed at the Nyngan Solar Plant in New South Wales, completing module installation for Australia’s largest solar project.

The 1.36 million modules that make up the 102MW power plant will produce enough electricity each year to power more than 33,300 average homes in the state.

Approximately 25 per cent of generation from block one began in March this year. Once complete, the plant will not only be the largest PV plant in the southern hemisphere, but will also mark a major milestone for the utility-scale solar industry in Australia.

First Solar’s regional manager for Asia Pacific Jack Curtis said the company’s modules have dramatically improved in efficiency in recent years.

“These 1.36 million modules will have a higher energy yield than traditional crystalline silicon modules, particularly in hot climates, will produce no carbon emissions and will require no water during operation,” he said.

“Utility scale solar PV is already cost competitive with conventional generation in many parts of the world and will increasingly deliver economic stimulus to rural Australia without depleting natural resources.

“The UQ Gatton Solar Research Facility provides Australia with a unique opportunity to become a leader in solar PV research globally. The research conducted and resulting advancements will encourage further integration of utility-scale solar into Australia’s electricity grid. The insights gained will enable the industry to overcome pre-existing hurdles, increasing commercial viability of clean energy projects in Australia’s future.”

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the organisation had been working with AGL and First Solar during the project’s planning and construction stages to ensure the energy industry would benefit from their experiences.

“To date we have published 19 reports covering a range of topics from planning, approvals and logistics to procurement, construction and grid connection. Pooling and sharing this knowledge will make it easier and cheaper to develop large scale solar plants in Australia by helping reduce financial, regulatory and technical barriers,” Mr Frischknecht said.

AGL’s managing director and CEO Andy Vesey said the low-emission technology utilised in the Nyngan Solar Plant is an important part of AGL’s journey towards a decarbonised electricity generation sector.

“The Nyngan Solar Plant is an extremely impressive facility on both an Australian and world scale. I am proud to be able to mark this milestone and also see about half the plant now online and delivering clean, renewable energy into the grid. We are pleased to be adding to AGL’s and Australia’s portfolio of renewable energy generation and assets,” he said.

The construction of the Nyngan Solar Plant has created more than 250 on-site jobs. It has also created off-site jobs to supply material, as well as design, management and support roles.

“First Solar has pursued every opportunity to support local and regional businesses throughout the construction of the Nyngan Solar Plant,” Mr Curtis said.

“In addition to boosting the local economy through job creation, First Solar supported Australian automotive parts manufactures who were exploring new business opportunities. They produced vital parts, like mounting structures, transformers and switchgear to the plant.”

Local procurement accounted for more than 55 per cent of the total procurement spend on the Nyngan Solar Plant.

In addition to the Nyngan Solar Project, AGL has also engaged First Solar to deliver the 53MW (AC) Broken Hill Solar Plant, located in NSW.

With completion estimated for November this year, the Broken Hill Solar Plant is currently under construction and meeting all major project milestones.

First Solar has provided engineering, procurement and construction services for both projects, and will provide maintenance support for five years once the solar farms are operational.

These projects are supported by
$166.7 million funding from ARENA and $64.9 million from the NSW Government.