Big solar to generate power and jobs for historic Queensland town

Sheep and cattle grazing town Barcaldine, Central West Queensland, will be home to a new big solar farm, creating jobs in the region and boosting large-scale solar throughout the country.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is providing $22.8 million support towards the construction of Barcaldine Regional Community Solar Farm, a 20MW AC (25MW DC) single axis tracking solar plant.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the project would benefit the region and demonstrate how renewables can provide network benefits in locations at the edges of the national electricity network.

“Fringe-of-grid locations in regional Australia face a number of challenges with reliability and outages caused by network constraints and a lack of infrastructure,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“There is a clear value proposition for large-scale solar in the Barcaldine area, which has an excellent solar resource and experiences voltage and frequency control issues as well as load management challenges.

“A new solar farm will help alleviate peak demand pressures and provide voltage control, resulting in more reliable power supply to customers in the region.”

The potential for added battery storage to create additional network benefits will also be explored. This could allow the solar plant to work in tandem with the existing gas plant during a line outage, operating as an ‘island’ network independent to the main grid.

Up to 175 jobs are expected to be created during construction, with the early works being carried out by employees from the local community. The plant will adopt the tracking technology currently being installed at the ARENA-supported Moree Solar Farm, providing a further benchmark and additional information on its installation and operation, to be shared with the energy industry.

The $69 million project is due for completion in April 2017. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has committed $20 million in debt finance towards the project.