As momentum builds in the solar sector there has been a noticeable decrease in the cost of building large-scale solar farms. This has led to a boom of new projects in Australia with bigger projects now able to get off the ground.
Bigger farms allowing for more energy
Before ARENA announced $92 million in grant funding for large-scale solar projects in early 2016, Australia only had four commissioned solar farms. However, the funding has led to an increase in projects, with the competition helping to drive down the costs of construction.
The decreasing costs of solar construction has prompted companies to move forward with construction of large-scale solar farms, allowing them to begin with or without government funding.
One such project is a $1 billion battery and solar farm planned for construction at Morgan in South Australia. Once completed, it will be one of Australia’s largest solar farms, with 3.4 million solar panels and a capacity of 330MW solar generation. This is 228MW more than the 102MW Nyngan facility in New South Wales, which is currently Australia’s largest constructed solar farm.
The new solar farm at Morgan has not received funding from the Government and will be 100 per cent equity funded. Construction is expected to begin in 2017.
Another such project is the Kingfisher Project near Roxby Downs in South Australia. It was a finalist for ARENA funding but missed out.
The combined solar and battery facility is expected to produce 120MW of solar power from 1.5 million panels, with construction expected to begin in September 2018.
Jeff Lawson, National Construction Equipment Sales Manager at Vermeer, said projects such as these show that the technology and experience to build large-scale solar farms is available, and by using them Australia’s solar industry can quickly catch up to international markets.
“Australian large-scale solar is still in its infancy. Until recently there were only four projects commissioned. Even with the 12 winning projects from ARENA’s competitive funding round adding 262MW to Australia’s capacity, it is still well behind the installed capacity of comparable international markets which have between one and 34GW capacity,” Mr Lawson said.
“It’s larger projects such as the Morgan and Kingfisher projects that will boost Australia’s capacity and show that these projects can be undertaken without funding support.”
Mr Lawson said there is equipment available that can help further drive down costs, and make construction more efficient, making solar projects more viable, with or without support.
“For example, Vermeer’s PD10 pile driver has been designed to meet the tight tolerance and high productivity demands of commercial solar installation contractors and the expansive solar fields for which they are responsible,” Mr Lawson said.
“It is equipped with GPS guidance, auto-plumb and a laser-controlled post-depth-control feature so piles can be installed quicker, cheaper and more accurately.
“With solar projects increasing in size the use of equipment like this will become increasingly more important in order to build strong foundations to lay panels on, while also reducing the risk of project delays or added installation costs without compromising on the quality of work.
“Australia’s solar industry is booming and if contractors can keeping pushing the costs of construction down we will continue to see larger solar farms being constructed.”
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