Solar feature

Australia’s largest solar projects given green light

The Federal Government will provide more than $750 million to help build two of the largest solar power stations in the world.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Resources and Energy Minister, Martin Ferguson announced in June the record funding to support construction of the solar projects in Queensland and New South Wales.

Solar Dawn in Chinchilla and Moree Solar Farm in New South Wales have been selected as the two successful consortiums to build the power plants under first round of the Federal Government’s $1.5 billion Solar Flagships program.

The Federal Government will contribute $464 million for the project in Chinchilla, worth an estimated $1.2 billion, and $306.5 million towards the project in Moree, worth an estimated $923 million.

Together, the projects are expected to generate enough power to support the electricity needs of more than 115,000 Australian homes per year.

The Solar Dawn consortium, led by Areva Solar, will build a 250 MW solar-thermal gas-hybrid power plant near Chinchilla.

Solar Dawn will be one of the largest power plants of its kind in the world as well as one of the most environmentally responsible. At least 85 per cent of Solar Dawn’s power generation will be entirely emissions free.

During construction, Solar Dawn estimates the project will generate $570 million in economic activity in the region and create approximately 300 jobs on average.

The Moree Solar Farm consortium, led by BP Solar will build a 150 MW photovoltaic power plant near Moree. This is nearly twice the size of any photovoltaic power plant operating in the world today.

It is estimated that the project will create on average around 300 jobs during construction.

Work will commence next year and the plants are expected to be completed and commissioned by the end of 2015.

The projects were selected in accordance with the recommendations of the independent Solar Flagships Council.

The projects are being funded under the $5 billion Clean Energy Initiative, through the expanded Renewable Energy Target and by pricing carbon.


Solar-thermal gas-hybrid plant

The proposed ‘Solar Dawn’ 250 MW solar-thermal gas-hybrid power plant near Chinchilla in south west Queensland was announced as the preferred solar-thermal power project in the Federal Government’s Solar Flagships program in June.

According to Areva, its comprehensive, fully integrated concentrated solar power (CSP) solution technology generates 1.5-to-2.6 times more peak power per acre of land than competing solar technologies.

AREVA renewables chief executive officer, Anil Srivastava, speaking on behalf of the consortium, commended the government on its vision for a low-carbon economy and its investment in developing utility-scale solar power generation.

“The Solar Flagships program demonstrates the Australian Government’s support for renewable energy. This announcement represents another significant milestone in the creation of a world-class clean energy industry in Australia,” Mr Srivastava said.

“Solar Dawn will be an international showcase for the nation, using Australia’s abundant solar resource and AREVA Solar’s Australian-pioneered compact linear fresnel reflector (CLFR) technology to combine zero-carbon solar energy with a low-emission, gas boiler back-up system to efficiently produce clean, reliable power to meet growing energy demand.

“Once completed, the proposed project will be the largest of its kind and one of the most environmentally responsible power production plants in the world. Its innovative, yet simple hybrid design will deliver energy as needed, even when the sun isn’t shining,” Mr Srivastava said.


Australia’s first utility-scale solar power station

Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV), BP Solar and Pacific Hydro welcomed the announcement that their joint proposal to build Australia’s first utility-scale solar project, the 150 MW Moree Solar Farm in the NSW Tablelands, was selected as part of the Solar Flagships Program.

“This is an exciting day for the consortium partners who are looking forward to working closely with the Federal and NSW State Governments to deliver this landmark project,” Moree Solar Farm director, Javier Huergo said.

When completed the Moree Solar Farm will comprise around 650,000 PV panels and produce enough power for around 45,000 households (or roughly a town the size of Darwin), leading to an annual displacement of around 400,000 tonnes of CO2 through generation of renewable electricity.

While the Moree Solar Farm will be the first of its kind in Australia, utility-scale solar PV power stations have been successfully operating in the US, Canada, Spain, Italy, Germany, China and other countries for many years and Australia has a higher level of solar resource than any of these countries.

BP Solar’s Tony Stocken, a Moree Solar Farm director, said the project will pave the way for more utility-scale solar power production in Australia.

The town of Moree was chosen for its intense solar resource, one of the best in Australia, and the availability of suitable land closely located near an adequate substation to enable connection to the state’s power grid.

In addition to providing a blueprint business model for the roll-out of utility-scale solar across Australia, the Moree Solar Farm will provide a significant boost to the local economy creating or sustaining hundreds of jobs during the four-year construction phase, with the potential to create many more indirect jobs across Australia.


Concentrated solar power research facility opened

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Federal Minister for Energy and Resources, The Hon. Martin Ferguson MP opened one of the first investments by the Australian Solar Institute (ASI) to accelerate commercial deployment of solar technologies in June.

The solar tower research facility at the CSIRO National Solar Energy Centre in Newcastle (NSW) consists of a 30 m high solar tower surrounded by 450 locally manufactured custom-designed mirrors (heliostats), capable of generating temperatures of up to 1500°C.

The facility will initially be used to develop and test a solar air turbine to generate electricity from air and sunshine and without water.

ASI executive director, Mark Twidell said the facility will be a resource available to researchers across the country and beyond to develop and test new concentrated solar-power technologies.

“Supported through a $5 million ASI foundation grant, this project literally provides the foundation for Australian solar researchers to take their ideas out of the lab and apply them in the real world,” Mr Twidell said.

“Australia is well known internationally as a leader in solar technology development. This facility adds another platform for Australia to leverage its people and technology to be part of a global supply chain in the world’s fastest-growing energy sector-solar.

“Already it has attracted partnerships with Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Spain’s Abengoa Solar, two of the world’s most prominent energy organisations.

“It is great to be working with the CSIRO, an organisation which has the world-leading research and project management expertise that attracts partners such as Mitsubishi and Abengoa.”

The ASI last year announced a further $9.2 million for three projects, worth a total value in excess of $24 million, that will use the CSIRO solar research facility to develop technologies that when commercialised will create further value for Australia.

“The projects, looking at high temperature receivers, solar energy storage and air turbines, include over $6 million of international industry investment for Australia,” Mr Twidell said.

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