Emu Downs Solar Farm Completed

The 20MW Emu Downs solar farm north of Perth, which is the largest solar farm in Western Australia and co-located with the 80MW Emu Downs wind farm and the under construction 130MW Badgingarra wind farm, has been completed. This will make the 230MW project the largest of its type, nationwide (for now!). It utilises single axis tracking technology from NextTracker and will help cover baseline power around lunchtime when wind patterns are weaker. 

Emu Downs Solar Farm / Wind Farm

Emu Downs Solar Farm Wind
Emu Downs Solar Farm (source: apa.com.au)

The Emu Downs wind + solar farm is the largest wind+solar project in Australia, beating the NSW Southern Tablelands’ Gullen Range Wind Farm and Gullen Solar Farm (165.5MW / 10MW respectively) It’s also bigger than the previous second biggest wind/solar  White Rock Wind Farm and the White Rock Solar Farm (175MW / 20MW), located New England Tablelands of NSW. 

APA received $5.5m funding from ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency) back in 2017 for the 20 megawatt solar photovoltaic farm, also entering into a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) to sell the electricity and STCs to energy provider Synergy until 2030. 

This will make the Emu Downs facility the first of 12 large-scale solar farms ARENA funded – with three in NSW (Griffith, Parkes, and Dubbo) almost complete, according to RenewEconomy. Emu Downs’ $5.5m was part of $92m ARENA gave the 12 solar farms which will eventually output a massive 492MW. 

APA CEO Mick McCormack made a statement in a media release to thank ARENA for helping them get the Emu Downs Solar Farm up and running:

“APA is grateful for ARENA’s support over a number of years to get this exciting project, APA’s first solar farm, constructed and delivering an enhanced energy solution from our combined wind and solar farm.” 

APA also bought the Darling Downs Solar Farm from Origin in the middle of last year, and it’s expected to finished construction this year. 

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Gov’t Owned Synergy Enters WA Market

Government-owned Synergy has entered the market in Western Australia for the sale and installation of solar and battery storage systems. This has caused an uproar – with many existing small businesses calling it ‘blatantly unfair competition’ and decrying the fact that a government-owned corporation with substantial competitive advantages will compete directly with small businesses. 

Synergy and the Potential Conflict of Interest

Synergy to enter domestic solar market in WA
Government-owned Synergy to enter the domestic solar market in WA

Synergy is a Government-owned corporation (website here), fully owned by the Government of Western Australia. Synergy, Verve Energy, Horizon Power and Western Power were created in 2006 as a result of the breakup of Western Power Corporation. On 1 January 2014 the retailer (Synergy) merged with the state-owned generation business (Verve Energy). They have a legislated monopoly to buy/sell all energy generated by PV solar systems on residential premises for the whole of Western Australia. According to Wikipedia, Synergy is Western Australia’s largest energy retailer and generator with more than one million industrial, commercial and residential customers, generating total annual revenue of more than $3.2 billion (14/15 financial year).

They recently entered the market for the sale and install of domestic solar/storage systems (which generally cost between $3,000 and $10,000,) competing directly with small businesses.  

Garry Itzstein and the National Electrical and Communications Association

A letter written by Garry Itzstein to the Small Business Minister, The Hon. Paul Papalia, is currently doing the rounds. Mr Itzstein is the Executive Director of the NECA (National Electrical and Communications Association) in Western Australi, which is a peak industry body representing the interests of electrical and communications contractors Australia-wide.

Mr Itzstein’s letter advises that the NECA WA “strongly urges the government to reconsider the previous government’s decision to allow Synergy to compete in the solar and battery storage installation market”, citing already increased competition and declining demand severely affecting existing small businesses. 

According to the letter, Synergy would be able to use their ‘monopoly status, financial strength and government subsidies’ to:

  1. 1 . advertise heavily to its existing customer base (which is the entire retail market of electricity consumers)
  2. leverage considerable purchasing power over equipment suppliers
  3. leverage considerable purchasing power over installers (in the end, these systems must be installed by a licenced electrical contractor)
  4. apply its vast marketing budget
  5. undertake pricing that borders on predatory

We’re inclined to agree – it seems unfair that Synergy are able to enter the domestic solar and storage market in WA and compete against existing businesses, given their huge and unfair advantages. What do you think? Sound off in the comments…

Click to read: Garry Itzstein and the NECA’s letter to Paul Papalia re: Synergy

 

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