As temperatures soar in outback Australia, Queensland’s biggest solar farm built with the support of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has begun generating and feeding electricity into the grid.
With the potential to produce enough renewable energy to power around 9,800 households, the Barcaldine Remote Community Solar Farm is expected to reach full generation by the end of the year.
It was developed by Elecnor Australia, with funding from ARENA and debt finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).
ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said Barcaldine had reached the milestone two months ahead of schedule, demonstrating the industry was getting faster and more proficient at developing big solar projects.
“Barcaldine was one of the first ARENA-funded solar plants and has helped pave the way for the next generation of 12 large-scale solar farms to be built across the country by the end of next year.
“Supported by ARENA, six big solar plants in Queensland, five in New South Wales and one in Western Australia are expected to triple Australia’s large-scale solar capacity providing enough energy to power 150,000 average Australian homes.”
“ARENA’s unprecedented investment in large-scale solar is expected to unlock almost $1 billion in commercial investment and boost regional economies,” he said.
In Barcaldine, more than 78,000 single axis tracking solar photovoltaic (PV) panels have been installed at the plant, which will have a capacity of 20 MW AC (25 MW DC) when fully operational.
“As well as generating clean energy, the project is demonstrating how project developers can monetise network benefits and ultimately how solar farms can improve network efficiency and reliability at the edge of the grid,” Mr Frischknecht said.
Barcaldine Mayor Rob Chandler said after supporting the project from development to construction, the local community was celebrating this latest milestone.
“The people in our district are enthusiastic supporters of solar energy and the great benefits it can bring to outback communities like ours. If it’s one thing we have a lot of its sun so it’s great to see it being harnessed to power the electricity grid.”
ARENA has committed $22.8 million in funding, while the CEFC has committed $20 million in debt finance towards the project, which was developed by Elecnor Australia.
Elecnor Business Developer Manager Manuel Lopez-Velez said the Barcaldine Solar Farm was expected to be operating at full generation in the next couple of weeks.
“Barcaldine Solar Farm when fully operational will generate around 57,000 MWh of clean energy per year, an energy consumption equivalent to approximately 9,800 households,” Mr Lopez-Velez said.