Clare solar farm in North Queensland now online.

The Clare solar farm, Queensland’s biggest solar farm at 100MW capacity, has connected to the grid and started exporting renewable energy. This is one of many solar projects due in 2018, totalling around 1400MW.

About the Clare Solar Farm

Clare Solar Farm
Clare Solar Farm (source: claresolarfarm.com.au)

The Clare solar farm project is located around 35km south-west from Ayr in North Queensland. It’s the biggest operating solar farm in the state, dwarfing the incumbent 50MW Kinston solar project. It is owned by Lighthouse Solar who also have ownership of the Hughenden solar farm which has a 20MW capacity and is about to begin production itself. 

We wrote about the Clare solar farm last July when it was a 125MW plant potentially going up to 150MW. It’s been launched with 100MW with the space to potentially expand down the track. They’ve signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Origin Energy along with the Bungala solar farm, which will be the biggest solar farm in Australia when it completes later this year.

According to the Clean Energy Council, around $2.6 billion of solar projects will be connected to the grid in 2018, adding around 1400MW of capacity. A solar forum held in Brisbane by the CEC last week noted that the boom in solar investment (both domestic and commercial) has led to 2760 Australian solar jobs added to the economy. 

“Large-scale solar has gone from an emerging technology in Australia at the beginning of the decade to a genuinely game-changing form of power that is cheaper than new coal or gas. It has exceeded the expectations of even the most optimistic predictions,”  CEC chief executive Kane Thornton said in comments to RenewEconomy.

“Along with the national Renewable Energy Target, support from the Queensland Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has helped to make this one of the lowest-cost options we have for electricity today.”

Sun Metals solar farm starts commissioning.

The 124MW Sun Metals solar farm near Townsville is about to start commissioning. The farm will be located at the Sun Metals zinc refinery which is about 15km south of Townsville and is currently Australia’s biggest solar farm. Not for long, but that’s the way things are going with large-scale solar in Australia! 

Sun Metals solar farm

Sun Metals
Sun Metals Solar Farm (source: sunmetals.com.au)

We wrote an article last September about the solar farm and how it was expected to be fully commissioned by April, so the project has kept to timeline very well. Sun Metals Chief executive Yun Choi was quoted in the Townsville Bulletin as saying that commissioning will commence in a ‘staged approach’ over the next fortnight – with the solar farm working at full capacity by the end of May. 

Sun Metals have built the solar farm so they’re able to insulate themselves from the rising costs of electricity – and it’s estimated that the 124MW project will be able to account for over 1/3 of the zinc refinery’s power requirements. 

“Once the solar farm is operational it will enable the refinery to be the largest single-site renewable consumer in Australia,” Choi says.

“The solar farm will be one of a kind in that it will directly power a large industrial user and export electricity into the National Electricity Market – so I think that makes it pretty innovative.”

According to Choi via RenewEconomy, Sun Metals need 900,000 MWh (megawatt hours) to facilitate the production of 225,000 tonnes of zinc each year. Around 300,000MWh will be created by the new solar farm and the lower electricity costs will result in savings which will then be funnelled into a potential $300m expansion of Sun Metals, which will also help a lot with solar jobs in the area. 

“If we go ahead, the expanded refinery would see an additional $300 million invested right here in Townsville and is expected to support up to 827 construction jobs during peak construction, also with significant increase in permanent workers at the refinery once operational,” he told the Townsville Bulletin.

Great news for solar jobs in Townsville and for solar fans in general! Renewable energy in resources is a spot where we will see a lot of growth over the next 24 months and it’s fantastic to see Sun Metals leading the way. 

2 North Queensland Solar farms approved

Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) has been approved to build two North Queensland solar farms in Clare and Tieri – to bring another 141MW of solar power to the sunshine state.

FRV and North Queensland Solar

FRV Logo - North Queensland Solar Farms
FRV Logo (source:claresolarfarm.com.au)

According to the Daily Mercury, the Tieri project will create 200-250 jobs during its development. It is a 96MW DC solar farm and will join another FRV farm in the same region – the 125MW Lilyvale Solar Farm.

With the additional approval of the 45MW Clare II Solar Farm in Burdekin (which will be constructed next to the Clare I solar farm) these two projects (Clare II and Tieri) will add 141MW to FRV’s current 281MW portfolio of solar farms in the approved, but planning stages. It’s going to be a big 12 months for solar farms Australia wide, but especially in Queensland where there has been a flurry of recent approvals (e.g. the mega solar farm at Bouldercomb, an smaller Longreach Solar Farm and many more). RenewEconomy data shows that there are 17 solar farms currently being built (or having reached financial close) in Queensland alone – and there are at least another 34 currently being planned.

FRV Australia Managing Director Cameron Garnsworthy said: “These recent planning approvals build on FRV’s track record of successfully working with local communities to achieve positive regulatory endorsement for its utility-scale solar projects”. They’ve previously been responsible for the succesful design and development of the Moree solar farm, the Royalla solar farm (both in New South Wales), and, as previously mentioned, the original Clare solar farm which is currently being upgraded. They have a proven track record overseas as well – FRV is a global developer of solar projects who have built utility-scale plants in locations as diverse as Jordan, Uruguay, India and Italy.

You can click here to read more about the existing 125MW Clare Solar farm which will potentially reach 150MW in its final design (On May 31 FRV sold it to Lighthouse Infrastructure and DIF who acquired a 50% equity interest each in the project).

Eco Energy World’s Queensland Solar Farms

Eco Energy World, the UK based solar company who in 2016 promised to bring 1GW of PV Solar to Australia, have gained approval for three new Queensland solar farms.

Eco Energy World Queensland Solar

In a statement provided Tuesday, Eco Energy (founded in 2012, but founder Svante Kumlin also started solar PV module manufacturing facility Eco Supplies in 1993)  said the new plants, as with previously approved projects, will feed directly into the grid via a ‘merchant’ model. This means EEW will not need to sign any Power Purchase Agreements and will instead be free to offer the energy on the spot market at wholesale prices (they’ll also be eligible for large-scale renewable energy certificates).

So far their plans include:

  • 280MW in Bouldercombe
  • 140MW in Maryborough
  • 20MW in Chinchilla

The Chairman of Eco Energy World, Svante Kumlin, is quoted on their website as saying  “The solar revolution has only just started. Today, solar represents only 1% of the global energy market. By 2030, it will be 10% meaning that an additional 1600 GW of solar power plants will be constructed during this time and the market will grow 10 times.” Kumlin is also active on Twitter as @SvanteKumlin if you’re interested in following him.

EEW have developed more than 200MW of renewable energy projects and currently have over 500MW under development. According to their site they plan to develop the 1GW in the ‘coming 3 years’. The site doesn’t state that they are specifically talking about Australia but we will update with further details as they are available – according to the timelines below it shouldn’t be long before we hear more about EEW’s plans for Qld Solar.

Eco Energy World Queensland Solar Farm
Eco Energy World Logo (source: eew.solar)

Kumlin advised RenewEconomy that the new projects will increase large scale solar power generation in Queensland by “approximately 410MW’ will will create “hundreds of jobs and services”.  Construction on the projects will commence this year in Q3 and are expected to be connected directly to the grid by the end of the year. This unpopular model (i.e. eschewing Power Purchase Agreements in favour of selling directly on the sport market) will be one that’s definitely watched closely by other solar farm developers – it allows a lot more control and potentially a lot more profit but lacks the stability of a long term agreement with a  major utility.