Clouds disperse to reveal sunny future for solar

AUSTRALIA’s first large-scale solar power project has been officially opened after more than a year of planning, design, construction and testing. Greenough River Solar Farm, 50km southeast of Geraldton in WA’s Mid West, is the largest photovoltaic (PV) solar plant in Australia and is capable of exporting 10 megawatts of electricity to the grid.
The solar farm is expected to generate enough energy to power 3000 homes and displace 20,000t of greenhouse gasses each year which, according to Western Power, was the equivalent of taking 4000 cars off the road.
“The Western Australia community has developed a genuine appetite for renewable energy and today we are 10 megawatts closer to a cleaner energy future,” WA Energy minister Peter Collier said at the opening of the plant.
Greenough River Solar Farm is a 50/50 joint venture between Verve Energy and GE Energy Financial Services: First Solar supplied the products and services, and Western Power provided the grid.
Western Power chief executive Paul Italiano said changes were made to local networks to suit the needs of the farm. “This project has been a significant challenge for our engineers, who have designed and implemented a major upgrade to the nearby Mungarra Substation in order to accommodate the additional electricity being generated by the farm,” he said.
First Solar provided 150,000 thin-film PV modules, in addition to engineering, procurement and construction services. First Solar chief financial officer Mark Widmar said he believed the opening of the farm marked a bright future for solar power in Australia.
“This landmark project provides a strong foundation for the long-term adoption of large-scale solar projects inthe Australian power market,” he said Verve Energy chief executive Jason Waters said the new project would benefit WA’s power supply.
“As the largest photovoltaic solar plant in operation in Australia, the Greenough River Solar Farm demonstrates that renewable technologies can contribute to meeting Australia’s future energy needs on a sustainable, cost-competitive basis,” he said. “This is a positive first step in validating the bright future that large-scale solar represents in Australia.” Greenough River Solar Farm’s electricity will complement the existing output from Verve’s gas turbine generator in Geraldton.

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