CSU Solar System at Wagga Wagga

CSU Solar – Charles Sturt University at Wagga Wagga is launched its 1.7MW, $3.2 million PV solar system yesterday – the country’s largest ever solar panel installation on a single site. The solar panels have been installed on the rooftops of 17 buildings around campus and it’s expected they will generate enough renewable energy to power 20% of the university’s electricity requirements. It was constructed over a six month period. 

CSU Solar System at Wagga Wagga Launch Party Cake
CSU Solar System at Wagga Wagga Launch Party Cake (source: CSU Green Facebook)

CSU Solar and Renewables

According to the CSU website, in 2016 they became the first carbon neutral university in Australia. Their 1,774 kW (1.7MW) solar installation will generate 2,620,000 kWh in its first year of operation – this is equivalent to the generation of 2,330 tonnes of CO2. Head contractor for the project are experienced large-scale solar installers Todae Solar, who have been responsible for a 1.24MW solar plant at the Brisbane Markets in Rocklea, 1.22MW at Stockland in Shellharbour, a nationwide 2.3MW Aldi rollout, and many more. 

Ed Maher, the manager of CSU Green, says the installation will serve two main roles – for CSU to keep leading in carbon neutrality, and also to ease their heavy reliance on the electricity network. It’s been financed through independent energy services firm Verdia and the tender was managed by Solar Choice late last year. As a result, the install is expected to save money starting from year one – “This is despite our existing low electricity tariffs and the absence of any unique government subsidies or grants,” Ed Maher said. “Given these early savings, I believe it marks a new phase in the financial viability of renewable energy on a large commercial scale which is another step towards a clean energy future.”

A lot about university solar this week – it’s no surprise that our universities are leading the renewables charge, and amazing to watch how quickly it progresses. 

If you’re interested, a drone-shot shot of the solar installation is available to watch below!

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Nowingi solar+storage to shake up the market.

In the face of rapidly rising electricity prices (where the wholesale price has doubled over the last few years since the carbon tax was axed) – there’s a desperate need for a solution Australia wide – and the brand new $660m Nowingi solar and battery storage plant, whilst being far from a panacea, is certainly a step in the right direction. Built by the Lyon Group who are also responsible for a proposed $1b solar battery farm in South Australia to be finished by the end of the year, this plant, built by private investment, looks like it will be an iconoclastic undertaking – read on to learn why.

The Nowingi Solar + Storage Project

Nowingi Solar Farm Artist Impression
Nowingi Solar Farm (Artist’s Impression – source: lyongroup.com.au)

According to Lyon partner David Green (Lyon are a private equity firm backed by Mitsubishi of Japan and the Unite States hedge fund Magnetar Capital) to the Australian Financial Review, the project is one one of three which amount to almost $2 billion in investment (AUD). These three projects will be offered to utilities, retailers and end users by using a ‘world-first’ tender model. Green took a swipe at the bumbling government and their inept policies of the last 10 years and said “These things are happening despite governments, not because of them,” Mr Green said. “The private demand for renewable energy can’t be denied.”. They’ll initially be 100% financed by equity to facilitate rapid development, but at some point they will likely be refinanced with some debt capital (Green noted that one of Australia’s ‘big four’ banks approached them voicing interest). Lyon told the AFR that “We are seeing a really significant shift in sentiment in private sector capital.”

As of next week the Lyon Group will seek expressions of interest from market participants (generators, network owners, and energy users) for contracts and other services which will be able to use the 60Mwh of storage capacity the three projects, located in Queensland, South Australia, and Victoria, will create. The 250MW Nowingi Solar Farm (Nowingi is around 50km south of Mildura) is going to use 2.3 million panels to deliver power and also charge an 80MW (160Mwh) battery – and users will be able to bid for access to storage at the facility where in other circumstances they may have to buy at a much higher rate on the spot market. That is to say they’ll bid before (i.e. energy price arbitragethe inevitable power shortages / heat waves / high price times – thus protecting themselves from the extremely volatile wholesale price (a very powerful proposition for businesses, network owners and utility companies alike – anyone whose business relies on using high amounts of energy).

Despite (perhaps as a result of?) Canberra’s weak and ineffectual policy, private capital is coming to solar energy in a big way – just yesterday we discussed this on a smaller scale with Complete Office Supplies’ private solar investment – and last week we had a look at Eco Energy World’s solar projects and their intent to offer energy directly on the spot market without signing a Purchase Power Agreement (PPA) with any utility groups. This plant is the natural progression of such offerings – and it’s great to see private companies stand up and offer solutions, rather than pandering.

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500MW Haughton Solar Farm Greenlit

Burdekin Shire Council have greenlit a massive 500MW Queensland solar farm in Haughton to be built over the next eight years. The Haughton Solar farm will be built by the Australian owned and operated Pacific Hydro, who have already built ~750MW of solar in Australia, Chile, and Brazil. Pacific Hydro, founded in Australia in 1992, also have a number of additional development projects with a potential capacity of 1.7GW.

Haughton Solar Farm

Haughton Solar Farm Location (source: pacifichydro.com.au)
Haughton Solar Farm Townsville

The Townsville Bulletin is reporting that the farm will be built on a 1,181 hectare plot of land in Upper Haughton, on Keith Venebales Road. It’ll create 240 jobs during construction an ongoing operation and maintenance will employ 10 further employees. It directly adjoins an existing 275kV Powerlink transmission line, so presumably it’ll connect directly to the National Electricity Market (NEM). No word yet on Power Purchase Agreements or if they’ll go the route of Eco Energy World and sell directly on the spot market.

According to the Pacific Hydro website, the region has one of the highest levels of solar irradiance in Australia, with 2,095 KWh/m² per annum. The 500MW farm, which will be built over three stages in the next eight years, will eventually product 500MW of PV solar and is a massive boon for the area and renewable energy in Queensland, which is seeing massive investment in the area of solar over the last few months. At full capacity, the Haughton Solar Farm is expected to generate enough solar power for around 170,000 homes.

Burdekin Shire Council Mayor Lyn McLaughlin has noted that if won’t have an effect on the environmental aspect of the land: “If the solar farm becomes unviable or past its operational lifespan, the land can be converted back to agricultural land unencumbered.” McLaughlin noted that the approval is still subject to some conditions, such as upgrading of the road which will be used to access the project – but it looks like the project will go ahead without too much trouble.

The solar farm, which will consist of 1,000,000 solar panels, should pass the tender process within the next couple of months and construction will commence early next year.

Click here to view a project overview and location from the Pacific Hydro website.

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