Construction commences on Australia’s first utility-scale solar farm

Construction recently commenced on the 10 MW AC Greenough River solar farm, located 50km south of Geraldton. Once completed, the solar farm will be the first utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) project in Australia.

Western Australian state-owned power utility Verve Energy and GE Energy Financial Services each own 50 per cent of the Greenough River solar farm, with the WA Government providing $20 million, including $10 million from the WA Royalties for Regions program.

The construction program is scheduled to take place over a period of approximately nine months. Following civil work, which commenced in early November, the project will progress to onsite construction of structural supports and the completion of above-ground electrical works. The installation of First Solar PV modules is anticipated to begin in March 2012, with the solar farm expected to be fully operational by mid-2012.

First Solar will supply the project with more than 150,000 of its thin-film PV modules and provide engineering, procurement and construction services.. Local civil contractor WBHO Civil was awarded the phase-one construction contract for the project and up to 150 people will be onsite at any one time throughout the construction phase, with jobs lasting for up to nine months.

“First Solar aims to maximise local hiring and enable the project to make a meaningful and lasting contribution to regional communities,” First Solar vice president business development and sales Jack Curtis said.

“We are also building our in-country supply-chain network by procuring as many materials as possible from local suppliers at all stages of the construction process,” he said.

“Increased localisation is critical to the development of a sustainable large-scale solar industry in Australia. Developing a local capability to install utility-scale solar projects, together with stable government policy, will greatly improve the industry’s long-term outlook.”