In Depth: Moree Solar Farm

Moree Solar Farm aerial view
Moree Solar Farm

The largest single-axis tracking solar farm in the country is now feeding energy back into the grid from Moree, Northern New South Wales.

Moree Solar Farm, Australia’s second largest solar farm, is now feeding 56MW of renewable solar energy into the National Electricity Market, enough to power 15,000 average homes.

Led by developers Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV), reaching first generation on March 1 was a major milestone for utility-scale solar, proving single axis tracking and polycrystalline technology is a commercially-viable option for Australia’s energy future.

“First generation at the plant is a great achievement and represents more than six years of continued work from our Australian office through the development, financing and construction activities,” FRV CEO Rafael Benjumea said.

“There is strong market support for large-scale solar in Australia and FRV is looking forward to celebrating first generation from some of our other developed sites in the coming years.”

The farm’s 222,000 panels are expected to have a life of about 30 years.

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) CEO Ivor Frischknecht said large-scale solar in Australia was making solid headway towards reaching commercial maturity.

“In the last six months we’ve seen more than 210MW from ARENA-supported solar farms start feeding into the grid and powering Australian homes and businesses with renewable energy,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“The Nyngan, Broken Hill and Moree solar farms, along with approximately 200MW set to be built through ARENA’s $100 million large-scale solar round, will help push costs down by developing local supply chains, increasing financier confidence and advancing innovative renewable technologies.

“The various projects underway and in the pipeline clearly demonstrate there are a range of technology pathways to success with big solar.

“In the case of Moree Solar Farm, single-axis tracking is being used to capture more of the sun’s energy as it moves across the sky.”

Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) CEO Oliver Yates said by taking an abundant natural renewable resource and harnessing it to provide clean energy, the Moree Solar Farm was demonstrating how solar was set to play a major role in transforming Australia’s energy future while diversifying the regional economy.

“The Moree Solar Farm also demonstrated how innovative merchant energy based financing can be used to finance large-scale renewable energy projects in Australia,” Mr Yates said.

“The Clean Energy Finance Corporation is pleased to see each project built is more efficient and cost-effective than the last and this trend is continuing in Australia and around the world.

“As prices continue to fall, Australia will be able to tap this sustainable competitive resource to power the economy.”

The project was awarded 2014 Asia Pacific Solar Transaction of the Year by IJ Global, an award that recognises excellence, achievement and innovation in energy and infrastructure finance.

Mr Yates said the CEFC would continue to work closely with ARENA to augment the deployment of emerging energy technologies across Australia.

ARENA is providing $101.7 million funding support to Moree Solar Farm as well as driving knowledge sharing about the lessons learned during planning, design and construction. The CEFC has provided a debt finance commitment of $46 million.

More than three-quarters of the 150 jobs created since construction commenced in March 2015 have been taken up by local workers. During the ongoing operation of the project there will be up to five full-time employees at the Moree Solar Farm.

Moree Solar Farm is scheduled for full completion in April 2016.

Fast facts:

  • Moree Solar Farm (MSF) will have an operating life of around 30 years
  • The technology used is solar PV-polycrystalline modules with horizontal tracking. Panels have a height of approximately 2.5-3m above ground level
  • MSF has been funded with the assistance of a $102 million grant from Australian Renewable Energy Agency and $47 million in debt financing from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
  • MSF will have a capacity of 56MWac (70MWp) and will generate enough electricity to supply around 15,000 homes
  • The estimated annual greenhouse gas emissions reduced by the project are 95,000 tonnes CO2 equivalent