AGL leading the way

Nyngan Solar Plant. Image: AGL

Nyngan Solar Plant. Image: AGL

August 11, 2015

By Emma Brown

LARGE scale renewable energy projects are fast increasing in popularity as companies look at ways to harness Australia’s clean energy resources to produce more sustainable methods of power.

Australia is home to a number of solar and wind projects generating clean energy. In 2014 about 40 per cent of South Australia’s power came from renewable energy and an impressive 95 per cent of electricity used in Tasmania came from renewable sources.

Australia’s largest ASX listed owner, operator and developer of renewable energy projects, AGL, is currently constructing the country’s largest utility-scale solar projects; the $440 million Nyngan and Broken Hill solar plants in NSW.

Combined, the two solar plants are expected to produce about 360,000 megawatt hours of electricity each year. This will be sufficient to meet the needs of over 50,000 average NSW homes.

Nyngan Solar Plant

Construction began on the Nyngan Solar Plant, 10km west of Nyngan, in 2013.

Significant progress has been made since then; the site achieved full generation in June this year in one of its biggest milestones to date,sending 102 MW of renewable energy into the national electricity market.

AGL project manager Adam Mackett said the team had worked closely with the Australian Market Operator (AEMO) and local distributor Essential Energy (EE) to make sure testing and commissioning would enable 100 per cent generation.

“This is a great achievement for the largest utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) plant ever built in Australia,” Mr Mackett said.

“We have received confirmation from both AEMO and EE to increase generation to full capacity of 102 MW which is enough to power 33,000 homes annually, or the equivalent of supplying electricity to residents in a city more than twice the size of Dubbo, in western NSW, for a year.

“We will now be conducting final commissioning and testing ahead of the plant being fully operational.”

NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman said the recent milestone was great news for the people of Nyngan and the wider NSW community.

“It’s the culmination of many years of work by researchers, industry, government and the community,” he said.

“We’ve created a new era for large-scale solar energy in the Southern Hemisphere.”

The Nyngan Solar Plant was delivered in partnership with the Federal Government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), the NSW Government, together with the Bogan Shire Council and Nyngan community and project partners First Solar and Consolidated Power Projects.

 

Broken Hill Solar Plant

Construction of the $150 million Broken Hill Solar Plant is on schedule, with more than half of the plant’s 650,000 solar PV modules installed.

The 53 MW solar plant is expected to follow suit and achieve first generation in the next few months; the project remains on track to be fully operational by the end of the year.

“The plant is really starting to take shape with half of the solar plant modules installed and connected,” Mr Mackett said.

“We currently have around 150 people working on site, with approximately half from the local region.

“We’re also progressing plans for energising the plant with local network service provider Transgrid, which is an important step towards commissioning of the plant.”

The site at Broken Hill was chosen as it has one of the highest levels of solar radiation in NSW. The city’s large population and a need for significant electrical power in the region was also taken into account.

The Broken Hill Solar Plant will be brought into production in partnership with ARENA, the NSW Government, the Broken Hill City Council and project partners First Solar.

 

Community benefits

AGL’s large-scale renewable energy projects have significantly benefited the communities they are operating in on many levels.

The construction of the infrastructure projects alone has provided an economic injection into both the local and regional economies. Ongoing benefits will also continue during the operational phases.

“We are particularly pleased that this project has provided many local workers with the opportunity to broaden their skills as well as an economic boost to the regional economy,” said Mr Mackett after the Nyngan project achieved full generation.

 

Environment

At present the majority of electricity in NSW is generated from black coal, natural gas and coal seam methane gas ;the largest individual contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the country and a major contributor to climate change.

Energy generated from AGL’s solar plants will be fed into the national energy grid; this renewable energy plays an important role in combating climate change.

PV solar energy provider First Solar supplied and installed the PV modules at both sites. First Solar regional manager for Asia Pacific Jack Curtis said the modules have a higher energy yield than traditional crystalline silicon modules, particularly in hot climates.

“[They] will produce no carbon emissions and will require no water during operation,” Mr Curtis said.

“Utility scale solar PV is already cost competitive with conventional generation in many parts of the world and will increasingly deliver economic stimulus to rural Australia without depleting natural resources.”

AGL is continually evaluating its pipeline of potential renewable energy projects, taking into account numerous factors including the Renewable Energy Target, market conditions and financial rates of return.

ALG managing director and chief executive Andy Vesey said the company recognised that it has a key role to play in gradually reducing greenhouse gas emissions while providing secure and affordable electricity for more than 3.8 million Australian households and businesses.