Proving solar benefits at the edge of Australian grids

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) today announced $8.4 million funding support for Canadian Solar and Scouller Energy to construct a 5MW DC (4.5MW AC) solar farm near Normanton in far North-West Queensland.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said Normanton Solar Farm would help demonstrate how integrating solar into the grid can improve energy reliability in regional Australia.

“Like many regional Australian communities, Normanton is on the fringe of one of our major electricity networks,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“Power generated in Rockhampton is fed across more than 1000km of transmission lines to the Normanton area. Electricity transmitted over long distances typically experiences significant losses along the way.

“Adding renewable energy generation closer to where it’s needed can provide more reliable and efficient power. This is a key ARENA investment focus for fringe-of-grid and network constrained areas.”

Normanton Solar Farm will act as a test case for network provider Ergon Energy to understand the true impact on network losses. This will provide a starting point to explore regulatory changes that would support more renewable energy installations in fringe-of-grid locations across Australia.

Normanton Solar Farm will be jointly owned by Canadian Solar and Scouller Energy. Canadian Solar Australia has been contracted to construct the solar plant. Ergon Energy has signed a power purchase agreement to buy electricity from the plant.

Mr Frischknecht said Ergon Energy would work with Canadian Solar and Scouller Energy to analyse and report on the network impacts of operating the plant.

“This will allow energy distribution businesses to consider whether it’s feasible to compensate large-scale solar plants for the network benefits they provide,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“This could make large-scale solar plants more competitive and encourage more project developments, potentially increasing solar uptake and benefitting local communities where these projects can positively impact on the grid.”

Normanton Solar Farm is scheduled for completion in December 2016.