New England Solar Farm

UPC Renewables Australia is developing the New England Solar Farm, a major grid-connected solar farm in the Uralla Shire. Let’s take a look at the project and some of the opposition it’s currently up against.

New England Solar Farm

New England Solar Farm (source:newenglandsolarfarm.com.au)
New England Solar Farm Proposed Location (source:newenglandsolarfarm.com.au)

The 2700ha project will be 600-800MW depending on what approval UPC are able to get from the Uralla Shire Council. They’ve promised $150,000 – $200,000 a year for 25 years for the local community to go towards funding, partnerships, education, tourism and more. 

According to the official website, up to 500 jobs will be made during the construction of the solar farm (around 36 months) and if the New England Solar Farm ends up with battery storage (which is looking very possible), more jobs will be created. 

The farm is expected to generate enough renewable energy to power around 250,000 homes in New South Wales.

New England Solar Farm Opposition

We’ve seen a bit of solar farm opposition lately – it’s good to see companies being held to account, but the legitimacy of the claims seem to vary quite widely. The proposed New England Solar Farm has resulted in the creation of The Uralla, Walcha Community Action Group for Responsible Solar and Wind Development, a group of residents who would like the southern side of the project to be cancelled, citing social, economic and environmental impacts.

“It’s obvious that the north west more than anywhere else in the state has more at risk,” the group’s advisor Mark Fogarty said in comments repeated by the Northern Daily Leader.

“Therefore it’s imperative that the community entrust with the councils the right planning authority to ensure the balance between development and community interest.”

In response, UPC Renewables have reduced the project’s southern area by 50%, according to Killian Wentrup from UPC. 

“Landowners across the proposed site and many others in the wider community support our plans and the benefits it can bring to Uralla,” he said. 

As another example, the Bookaar solar farm was rejected last year. There’s no news on reapplying on their website, with a news article on their site noting that the Corangamite Shire will ‘miss out on local jobs and $150m of investment’. It’s a bit of a touchy subject as there are certainly some farms which need to go back to the drawing board before they’re approved, but there is also a surfeit of NIMBYs with some…interesting ideas as to what people should be able to do with their own property. 

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Approved Solar Retailer | Clean Energy Council Program

Approved Solar Retailer – the Clean Energy Council’s program is over five years old now – the voluntary scheme authorised by the ACCC in 2013 has had its ups and downs. Is it worth it? Let’s take a look. 

Approved Solar Retailer | Clean Energy Council Program

The Approved Solar Retail program has grown to over 200 companies in January 2019, according to EcoGeneration. A hundred of these have been added since September 2018, which makes you wonder what the program was like for the previous five years (there are around 4,000 solar companies Australia wide). Is it worth joining the CEC or are they a toothless tiger (or a cash cow)? How does the CEC deal with complaints about members? Does this represent a glorified rubber stamp and is self-regulation something we can trust industries to work on? That’s something worth discussing with other solar owners who have had experience with the program.

Here’s their code of conduct: 

“This non-prescribed voluntary code of conduct (the Code) aims to promote best practice measures and activities for retail businesses selling solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. This Code is for retail businesses that want to demonstrate the commitment they have to promoting responsible activity and development in the renewable energy sector across Australia. This Code is not intended to replace existing consumer, energy or environmental planning legislation, policy or regulations at local, state or federal government levels, but to bring about increased accountability within the PV retail industry”

The program’s recent growth appears to be directly tied to schemes like the South Australian Government’s Home Battery Scheme and the Victorian Government’s Solar Homes Package – it appears that the ACCC isn’t ‘enough’ to regulate the industry. 

One important thing to note – being an Approved Solar Retailer is different to being a Clean Energy Council member. You can find a list of members on the Clean Energy Council members page.

If you’re having problems with an accredited solar company please fill out a solar accreditation dispute form

If you’d like to check whether an installer is accredited with the Clean Energy Council please click here.

If you’re a solar company hoping to get accredited please click here to learn more about the process and what you can expect. Membership is on a sliding scale and starts from $600 p.a. depending on the size of your company.

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Bright Acre Energy – Solar IPO, 2019 Plans

European solar project developer Wirsol Energy have an Australian arm known as Bright Acre Energy. The company has been working on a $500m IPO of their Aussie solar portfolio, but news is thin on the ground lately. Let’s take a look at what to expect from BAE in 2019.

Bright Acre Energy $500m Australian Solar IPO

Bright Acre Energy Gannawarra Solar Farm
Bright Acre Energy Gannawarra Solar Farm (source: brightacreenergy.com.au)

Bright Acre Energy have ten projects in various stages of completion, situated in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. According to the Australian Financial Review, the projects are set to fully connect to the national power grid by the end of 2019. These five projects will total over 1100MW, which is enough electricity to power 350,000+ houses. The official site names the farms as currently having 397MWp of nameplate capacity, with half of this commercially operational and the other half ‘almost there’. 

Former Australian rugby union player Bill Calcraft was the CEO last year, and along with Gerard Dover the site has them listed as ‘Proposed Management’ – so not sure what this means for 2019 – and there hasn’t been any specific news on their potential IPO. We’ve reached out to the team and will keep you updated if we find out anything about Bright Acre’s plans for the rest of the year. 

Bright Acre Energy are currently responsible for the following projects, as per their website:

  • Hamilton Solar Farm (Collinsville, QLD) (Operational) (69MWp)
  • Whitsunday Solar Farm (Collinsville, QLD) (Operational) (69MWp)
  • Clermont Solar Farm (Clermont, QLD) (Near-term Operational) (89MWp)
  • Springdale Solar Farm (Springdale, NSW) (Pipeline) (120MWp)
  • Bomen Solar Farm (Bomen, NSW) (Pipeline) (120MWp)
  • Hay Solar Farm (Hay, NSW) (Pipeline) (140 MWp)
  • Buronga Energy Station (Buronga, NSW) (Pipeline) (400MWp)
  • Wemen Solar Farm aka Wemen Sun Farm (Wemen, NSW) (Near-term Operational) (110MWp)
  • Gannawarra Energy Storage System (Kerang, VIC) (25MW/50MWh)
  • Gannawarra Solar Farm (Kerang, VIC) (60MWp)

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Finley Solar Farm | Canadian Solar KuMax Modules

Canadian Solar have announced that the Finley Solar Farm will be using their KuMax modules and EPC services for the $170m project in New South Wales.

Finley Solar Farm | Canadian Solar KuMax Modules

Finley Solar Farm
Finley Solar Farm (source: FinleySolarFarm.com.au)

The Finley Solar Farm will use almost half a million Canadian Solar CS3U-P Kumax Panels with single axis tracking, according to SolarQuotes. The modules are ‘split cell/half cut’ with 144 cells per module. Canadian Solar don’t have a huge presence in Australia yet, and it looks like they are going to focus on commercial solar installations for the time being. The farm will cost around $170m and will be built 6km west of Finley (which is located around 140km west of Albury, which is a city in southern New South Wales with a population of around 51,000).  According to their website, the 175MW farm will be developed by ESCO Pacific, one of Australia’s leading renewable energy developers, with construction being managed by Signal Energy Australia.

Canadian Solar Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Shawn Qu discussed their input in the project:

“We are delighted to be selected by ESCO Pacific to provide EPC (Engineering, procurement and construction) services together with Signal Energy and to supply our 1500V crystalline module to this large-scale solar power plant,” said Dr. Qu in a statement on the official Canadian Solar website. 

The farm has started construction (which started in December 2018) and the Finley Solar Farm is expected to be completed in Q3 this year, so not long at all! The energy has already mostly been spoken for, with a 7 year PPA signed last July by ESCO Pacific and Bluescope for the Finley Solar Farm to sell 66% of its output to Bluescope – with the PPA (Power Purchasing Agreement) the biggest corporate PPA of its kind in Australia at the time. 

John Nowlan, the head of Australian steel at BlueScope, said the contract will be a step in the right direction while they continue to support the National Energy Guarantee and rely less and less on non-renewable energy:

“(The contract) will help keep downward pressure on our energy costs, and will support the gradual transition to renewable energy,” Mr Nowlan told the Australian Financial Review.

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Yarrabee Solar Project | NSW’s Biggest Solar Farm

The $1b, 900MW Yarrabee Solar Project has been greenlit and will be New South Wales’ largest solar farm. It will be built by Reach Solar Energy in stages, starting this year. 

Yarrabee Solar Project | 900W | $1b

Yarrabee Solar Project Location
Yarrabee Solar Project Location (source: yarrabeesolar.com)

The Yarrabee Solar Farm project location has been classed as “moderate agricultural capability” (i.e. not ‘prime agricultural) and as such has had a lot less troubles getting approved. It’ll be built in stages, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, and, although the final cost is slated to be somewhere around $1b, the first stage will represent 300MW with a 35MW/70MWh solar battery (as per the application on the NSW Planning and Environment website). The official website notes an ‘Energy Storage System’ so we’re not 100% sure what is going to end up happening with large scale energy storage on the site, but there’s definitely potential at Yarrabee for it! 

According to the official website, construction of the farm will result in a lot of solar jobs for the region – with 150-200 workers onsite each day, and up to 450 in peak activities. After the project is complete, 15-25 full time jobs will be created. It’s expected to power the equivalent of 315,000 homes when completed. 

The farm will be built by Reach Solar Energy who are also responsible for the 275MW Bungala Solar Farm which will be commencing stage 3 of its construction this year, so they have a pedigree with regards to successfully delivering large-scale solar farms in Australia. Construction is expected to take two years for phase 1 (300MW) and will be connected to the adjacent transmission network (Wagga 330kV to Darlington Point transmission line). 

The address of the solar project is: 2354 Back Morundah Road, Morundah.

For further information about the project approval, please contact the planner, Diana Mitchell via email at [email protected].

Reach have also created a video about the solar farm which you can view below!

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