Construction starts on Nyngan solar plant

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

Development of the largest solar plant in the southern hemisphere is under way in Nyngan, New South Wales, with First Solar beginning the installation of more than one-and-a-quarter million photovoltaic panels in late January. Once installed, the modules will generate renewable energy with no emissions, waste or water consumption during operation.

AGL Energy Limited is building the $300 million, 103MW solar plant, which will eventually produce enough energy to power more than 33,000 average NSW homes. A second solar farm is also being built at Broken Hill, with both receiving funding support from Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the NSW Government.

First Solar broke ground on the installation of approximately 1,350,000 advanced thin-film PV modules less than six months after AGL achieved financial close for the project.

First Solar vice president of business development for Asia Pacific Jack Curtis said breaking ground at the Nyngan solar project is a significant milestone for the advancement of Australia’s utility-scale solar industry.

“Each project that First Solar constructs builds acceptance of and confidence in utility-scale solar as an effective source of power generation in Australia,” he said.

“As the Nyngan project develops, we look forward to seeing its impact, not only in generating important local job opportunities, but also in strengthening the solar industry’s position within Australia’s energy mix.”

ARENA congratulated AGL on breaking ground on the construction phase of the major project, with chief executive officer Ivor Frischknecht saying the project will help support job creation in regional NSW.

“The transfer of skills and experience to the local labour market will provide a boost to the local community and beyond as well as benefit the solar industry and the Australian economy,” he said.

“AGL has already learned valuable lessons during the planning stages of the project, which ARENA has shared with the industry in a guide to gaining regulatory approvals.

“Sharing knowledge helps build investor confidence, reduce risk and costs on future projects and paves the way for more solar energy plants to be built across the country.”

The project is expected to be completed in mid-2015.