Australia’s largest PV array, the 102MW Nyngan project in New South Wales, has delivered 60,000MWh of power to the national grid in its first three months of operation, the country’s renewable energy agency has said.
In a statement today, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) said the project represented a milestone for Australia’s large-scale solar sector, which has been under pressure from recent political attacks.
Nyngan, a partnership between Australian utility AGL Energy Limited (AGL) and US firm First Solar, is one of a pair of projects that together are expected to total 155MW of capacity.
It reached full generation capacity in June and is now expected to produce around 230,000 MWh of electricity annually, sufficient to power 33,000 homes in the state, according to ARENA.
“AGL’s solar project at Nyngan and Broken Hill represents a big investment by the company and also by ARENA,” said Ivor Frischknecht, ARENA’s CEO.
“It’s already achieving one of ARENA’s key aims of increasing the amount of renewable energy in Australia. And the knowledge gained from its successful launch and ongoing operations will lead to further improvements in technology and reductions in costs for the sector.”
Frischknecht said Nyngan was the third large-scale solar plant in Australia to begin generation, with its “twin” at Broken Hill and another, the Moree Solar Farm also in New South Wales, both set to begin operation in early 2016.
ARENA is expected shortly to launch its competitive funding round for large-scale solar projects, which will see the next generation of solar farms built across the Australia.
Further progress in Australia’s large-scale solar segment looked a distant prospect until fairly recently, with the country’s parliament locked in a fierce battle with prime minister Tony Abbott’s government over its attempts to slash the country’s Renewable Energy Target (RET).
The deadlock was eventually broken with a compromise deal, under which the RET was retained but reduced from 41,000GWh to 33,000GWh.
However, according to John Grimes, the head of the country’s solar trade body, the slashed RET could mean a reduction of up to 80% in the potential of Australia’s large-scale PV market. Additionally, AGL, which is one of Australia's biggest utility companies, called on the government earlier in the year to commit to more ambitious carbon emissions reduction targets as it outlined its own plans for emissions' reductions.