Kiamal solar project launched, may add 194MW more.

The official launch of the Kiamal solar project was held in Victoria on Wednesday. The 265MW (DC) solar plant has plans to double its output by adding another 194MW in the future at some point.

Kiamal solar project

Kiamal Solar Project
Kiamal Solar Project (source: Total-Eren Press Release (LinkedIn))

The Kiamal solar project is owned and being run by Total Eren (formerly two separate companies), a renewable energy company based in France whose $300m investment in the project has raised the ire of the Australian Energy Market Operator, who have implemented tough new conditioned for those wanting to install wind and solar in Victoria’s ‘full’ grid (click here to read a great article from the AFR about it). They commented that Total Eren had ‘misjudged’ the system strength requirements and said there could be an issue with adding a farm this size to the noth-west Victorian grid.

Luckily the team at Total Eren (or Total-Eren, depending on how French you are) have agreed to add an expensive ‘synchronous condenser’ to help stabilise the grid. AFR report that the cost is estimated to be in the ‘tens of millions of dollars’ so this is certainly quite the olive branch. 

An official statement from the company noted that the company had acquiesced to AEMO’s requests “…in order to facilitate a timely connection … substantially strengthening the grid in the region and making it possible to connect even more renewables in north-west Victoria”.

The team are now looking into adding 380MWh of energy storage and 194MWh of solar in a second or third stage, as per executive vice-president Fabienne Demol. 

NSW Energy Minister Don Harwin spoke at the Financial Review National Energy Summit and explained the situation a little further:

“There are plenty of people who want to advance new renewable energy generation options here in NSW, but transmission is a huge constraint and that is why we are ahead of the game, out there with our own strategy, carefully reviewing all the work AEMO has done in the ISP to make sure it works for NSW consumers ,but whatever we do we will be doing it in a way to make sure it doesn’t lead to upward pressure on prices because that is our critical focus and that is the assurance that we will give.”

Click here to learn more about the PPA Kiamal solar farm signed with Flow Power earlier this year. 

They’ve also signed Alinta Energy and Mars Australia after losing Meridian Energy earlier this year due to construction delays. The Kiamal solar farm will be completed by the middle of 2019. 

 

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RCR Tomlinson Solar Farm Writedowns

Australian solar contracting company RCR Tomlinson has taken a $57m write down on the Daydream solar farm and the Hayman solar farm, which are owned by Edify Energy and to be installed in North Queensland.

RCR Tomlinson Solar Farm Writedown

We reported earlieir this year on the Hayman and Daydream solar farms and how First Solar will be handling the installation for Edify – at that time everything looked rosy but it appears that a couple of major factors have led to cost and time delays. Edify have cited “external” delays, bad weather, and local issues like poor ground quality.  Also being blamed are the increasingly stricter requirements being imposed by the Australian Energy Market Operator which are affecting solar farms Australia-wide. 

RCR Tomlinison Daydream solar farm in Collinsville, Queensland.
RCR Tomlinson -Daydream solar farm in Collinsville, Queensland. (source: thewest.com.au)

As of last year, RCR have over half a Gigawatt of large-scale solar projects in their order book and over a Gigawatt currently being developed or progressed under early contractor involvement processes, according RCR Managing Director & CEO, Dr Paul Dalgleish (who has since left RCR). As a result of the writedown RCR are now attempting to raise $100m from investors and have had to offer a significant discount on RCR shares on a one-for-1.65 basis at $1 each. This represents a ~65% discount on the stock’s last trade price ($2.80).

According to RenewEconomy, Tomlinson has written down $57 million on the $315 million contract values for both the 150MW Daydream and the 50MW Hayman solar farms owned by Edify Energy. They’re both located in North Queensland and both nearing completion.

A statement to shareholders noted that: 

“These project-specific issues required the Company to continuously revise its execution methodologies to mitigate delays, leading to increases in subcontractor costs (both people and plant) and logistics cost overruns.

“As a result of these cost overruns that arose over the life of the Project, RCR has realised cumulative write- downs of $57 million from the tendered margin on the Project.”

Some bad news for solar farms in Australia but we have no doubt that these projects will end up completed and can start making their investments back. We’ll be watching closely how the AEMO’s ongoing changes to legislation affects the many other solar farms currently in various stages of completion/operation. 

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Fremantle solar farm faces NIMBY opposition.

The proposed Fremantle solar farm, which is going to be the first major (industrial scale) solar farm in urban surroundings and is being championed by a Greens-led council, has been experiencing pushback from local residents. Myriad complaints, most of them vexatious at best, have been put forward and about 350 people have signed a petition calling for the project to face an audit by the Western Australian EPA (Environmental Protection Authority).  

Fremantle solar farm

The farm, which is to be located over 8 hectares and will be built and operated by Epuron, will produce around 4.9MW and can help Fremantle reach its goal of being 100% renewable powered by 2025. 

The problem lies in the fact that it’s going to be built on the site of a former rubbish dump (which is presumably preferable to the farm’s detractors) and, according to the Australian, the “heavily contaminated site contains ash, tyres, car bodies, marine bilge oil, hydrocarbons, ­asbestos, batteries, chemical drums, mercury and lead”. Sounds like a solar farm would be a better alternative, right? Well, some of the residents complaining are concerned about airborne contaminants during the initial land clearing phase, which could be exacerbated by strong beachside winds. There’s also anxiety about the ‘glare’ and even ‘electromagnetic radiation’. It makes sense that residents, especially those with children, want to keep them safe – but their concerns seem a little far-fetched.

Fremantle Solar Farm - Dr Brad Pettitt
Fremantle Solar Farm – Dr Brad Pettitt (source: fremantle.wa.gov.au)

Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt is happy with the farm’s initial DA and advised that a site management plan will be prepared by an independent consultant, which they’ll have to strictly adhere to. 

According to The Australian, The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation said it would review an updated site management plan in response to the concerns. 

“We will only do the project if it can be done safely,” Dr Pettitt said.

Solar Farm Opposition

This is far from the first time we’ve seen this sort of reaction from people in proximity to solar farms – however they generally have to lean back on arguments about ‘agricultural land’ being misused. In lieu of this given that the Fremantle solar farm will be urban, they’ve come up with some interesting new reasons to ‘support solar, just not in my backyard’. Here are some of the other solar farms currently facing opposition from residents, if you’re interested in reading more:

  • Shepparton Solar Farm –  “…concerns about the science, about amenity, about the alienation of agricultural land”
  • UQ Solar Farm – it represents “environmental vandalism” to put install solar panels on “good agricultural land”
  • Brewongle Solar Farm – “…people coming into Bathurst will see it from the railway line”
  • The Collie Solar Farm – “eye sore” (sic) which will lead to a “disastrous situation” if the farm is approved.

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