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Largest Solar Farm in the World to Open In Queensland

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Sunshine Energy Australia Pty Ltd (SEA) has been granted Development Approval by Somerset Council in Queensland to build a single-site solar farm with a 500mw Lithium battery storage facility, both expected to be the largest in the world.  

It is the latest in a string of solar projects announced in 2018 that has broken records. Australian States and communities continually embrace alternative energy sources, even as leaders or governments are toppled, or increase their margins, in Canberra, Victoria and the seat of Wentworth.

When functional, it will produce enough green energy to power around 300,000 homes.

When functional, it will produce enough green energy to power around 300,000 homes. During construction, the $2bn project will provide upwards of 1,000 jobs, with up to 60 full-time jobs created for the life of its 25–30 years of operation. The renewable energy project will be built in two phases. 

“Renewable energy has been identified as an important industry for Australia, and it provides greater choice to customers seeking a more sustainable and affordable energy solution, reducing the reliance on non-renewable and increasingly scarce fossil fuels,” said Sunshine Energy Director Anthony Youssef.

“The 500MW battery storage onsite will provide additional energy distribution options, providing a more consistent energy supply that will reduce price volatility during peak periods. We are using our high-performance Lithium battery system, patented in Australia, for the facility.”

The construction will connect to the 275kV National distribution network in Queensland. The first 250MW is scheduled for completion by the end of this year.  

The massive site will comprise 247,000 subarrays of 21 solar modules, with a total of 5,191,200 solar panels on the site. Two substations built by Powerlink will distribute solar-generated energy back to the commercial electricity network.

This past year has been a record breaker for renewable solar and wind developments, and experts are talking about the economic benefits as well. Renewable energy is now cheaper than new-build coal power generation. Soon, it will be less expensive than existing coal-fired power.

“I have been in this game for so long … the one thing I have seen is just the cost of renewables really change the game."

“I have been in this game for so long … the one thing I have seen is just the cost of renewables really change the game,” Greg Jarvis, Origin Energy’s head of energy trading and operations, said in a recent podcast for Renew Economy. “Renewables are cheaper than the marginal cost of black coal at the moment. They are very cheap.”

Jarvis puts the cost of solar in the mid $40s/MWh and the cost of wind at the low $50s/MWh. The cost of solar is around half the average price of wholesale electricity in most states this year.

About 3,400MW of solar is expected to be installed by the end of this year in Australia with a further 4,300MW next year, according to the Clean Energy Regulator.

In NSW, 11 renewable energy projects are scheduled for completion this year, totalling 1080 megawatts. Of those six are solar farms, and five are wind farms.

Coleambally solar farm in south-west New South Wales, which commenced operations in November, claims to be the biggest solar farm in the country so far, at 150MW.

In a move that will further advance the call for solar power, Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten recently announced a series of significant new energy projects to encourage renewables, including $200 million worth of subsidies to install batteries in 100,000 homes so more Australians can store electricity from rooftop solar.

A Labor government would establish a new $5 billion fund for energy security and modernisation, enabling the national grid to support such changes through essential upgrades to transmission and distribution systems. If Labor takes office next year, Mr Shorten will recommit a Labor Government to a 45 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030, based on 2005 levels.

While the Federal Coalition Government seems reticent to push renewable energy, it is clear the industry is growing regardless, with communities demanding climate change action, lower prices and achieving, or exceeding, Australia’s renewable energy targets.

Queensland energy minister Anthony Lynham says 13 large-scale solar farms have been built in 2018 or are under construction in an “unprecedented wave” of renewable energy investment extending from Lakeland near Cooktown in the far north to the town of Dalby in the south-west.

Sun Metals, a Korean-owned zinc refiner based in Townsville, has opened its solar operations. 

Based on projections and studies around usage, the solar farm is expected to deliver about 30 per cent of the Zinc refinery’s electricity needs. Sun Metals needs 900,000-megawatt hours of electricity to produce 225,000 tonnes of zinc each year.

Western Australia has committed more than $1 billion spending on renewable energy projects that will almost treble the current amount of green energy being produced in the south-west grid over the next two years. Some of the most significant projects in the pipeline include Alinta Energy’s $500 million, 210MW Yandin wind farm in the Mid West, as well as large solar projects near Cunderdin and Merredin in the Wheatbelt. These will both exceed 100MW-plus.


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