WA’s first co-located solar farm to start construction

Crystal Brook

Western Australia’s Emu Downs Solar Farm is expected to begin construction within weeks, after signing a funding agreement with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

The project is the first solar farm in WA to be co-located with wind turbines, and is one of the 12 projects supported by ARENA through its large-scale solar competitive round.

The Emu Downs Solar Farm is being developed by energy infrastructure company, APA Group, and will produce enough energy to power 6700 homes while creating an estimated 100 local jobs during construction.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said ARENA’s support for Australia’s large-scale solar industry meant solar plants like Emu Downs would be cheaper to build and provide efficient electricity to Australians.

“Emu Downs Solar Farm would not have been viable just a few years ago,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“ARENA has been instrumental in driving down the cost of building a solar farm in Australia since it was established in 2012.

“The ARENA funding ask for big solar projects has dropped significantly from half of total project costs to just 10 per cent on average. In this latest funding round, every dollar of ARENA funding is leveraging $10 from other sources.”

Mr Frischknecht said this price drop made solar farms attractive to investors, as evidenced by the fact that ARENA’s $92 million large-scale solar program has leveraged $1 billion of investment in the 12 farms, which together will triple Australia’s large-scale solar capacity.

“This new generation of solar farms is also proving to be attractive to energy retailers. I’m delighted that Emu Downs Solar Farm has entered into a 12-year power purchase agreement to sell electricity and generation certificates to energy retailer, Synergy,” he said.

Mr Frischknecht said Emu Downs Solar Farm was joining the growing number of co-located Australian wind and solar projects.

“It will share a transmission connection and facilities with APA’s existing 80 MW Emu Downs Wind Farm. This approach saves money on grid connection, approvals and site development and reduces environmental impacts,” he said.

“Solar and wind are complementary renewable energy sources. As solar generates energy during the day, wind farms tend to generate more power overnight in WA, co-locating wind and solar delivers more continuous energy generation and makes good business sense.

“Across the board, the move to co-location of wind and solar means solar plants can be rolled out more quickly and cheaply across the country.

“A recent ARENA-supported study found there’s an estimated 1000 MW of potential opportunities to add solar alongside existing wind farms – that’s enough to power 700,000 homes.”