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. 

Solar thermal power station in Queensland planned.

Australian company CWP Renewables has proposed to build a 250MW, $1.3 billion solar thermal power station in Townsville. The station, similar to one already built in Nevada and one planned for South Australia, will be a huge economic and employment boon to the area. 

About the Solar Thermal Power Station

Solar Thermal Power Station Khi Solar One, South Africa
Solar Thermal Power Station Khi Solar One, South Africa (source: wikipedia.org)

We reported in August that South Australia will have a solar thermal power station installed in 2018 (Aurora, to be built by SolarReserve). Their station is slated to cost around $650 m so if CWP’s proposal goes ahead it will be the largest solar thermal structure in the country. Privately held SolarReserve was also responsible for the 110MW Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project in Nevada near Las Vegas. No word on CWP’s track record with solar thermal (or who they’ll choose to partner with for the tech), but they will be bidding against SolarReserve who told RenewEconomy they are also planning to develop up to six solar thermal facilities in Queensland over the next decade. 

“This Concentrated Solar Thermal project can deliver dispatchable, emissions-free power to North Queensland, together with thousands of high value jobs which utilise the existing skills of the North Queensland workforce, ” CWP Renewables managing director Alex Hewitt told the Townsville Bulletin yesterday.  Hewitt advised that the project is being called “Freedom Energy One” and will include solar + storage, noting that it could represent a cost effective and eco-friendly alternative to a new coal generator.

We reported yesterday that Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Labor party’s “Powering Queensland’s Future” proposal will include a $50 million “down payment” for a solar thermal power plant in Queensland, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the money will go towards CWP’s plant – along with SolarReserve and CWP there are a few companies looking to tender for a plant right now. 

According to CWP, if approval was reached then project construction would commence in 2019. The two-year construction phase would result in the creation of more than 2,000 jobs – with employment for civil works, tracking mirror installation, thermal receiver tower installation, storage tank and piping creation, and the construction of a brand new electrical substation which would be used for the plant. 

It looks like there’s a pretty good chance Queensland will see the construction of a solar thermal power station at some point, and it’s just a matter of time! 

If you want to learn more about the tech please click here to read the Wikipedia article about concentrated solar thermal. 

Powering North Queensland Summit Recap

The Powering North Queensland Summit was held in Townsville last Thursday (August 31, 2017). It had some fantastic media coverage and over 200 companies were represented. It was a great event to show off how far solar has come in North Queensland since last year and was run as a joint initiative of the Australian Solar Council and the Energy Storage Council. 

Powering North Queensland Summit Recap

Powering North Queensland Summit 2017
Powering North Queensland Summit – Townsville, 2017 (source: solar.org.au)

John Grimes of the Australian Solar Council and Battery Storage Council told the summit that Queensland has $6.8 billion of investment in the pipeline. The 31 large-scale solar projects, four wind / solar / storage hybrid plants, and one pumped hydro project will generate more than 6 gigawatts of power, with the vast majority of them being located in North Queensland. It’s estimated that this represents around 3,200 jobs as well.

Grimes also said that that PV solar is now the cheapest source of electricity worldwide, where it, along with wind, costs around 30 AUD per megawatt hour. “We are getting to the point where the cost of solar PV is so cheap it’s basically following the cost trajectory for glass. The glass and aluminium frame are the most expensive components,” Mr Grimes said, according to the Townsville Bulletin.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk also addressed the Powering North Queensland summit, discussing the $199m 300 hectare Sun Metals solar farm which will be built next to its $1b zinc refinery in Townsville.

“What we are seeing is private investment of $2 billion and $1.6 billion in north Queensland … upon completion Sun Metals will be the largest single site user of renewable energy. This is a unique project and is a great example of an innovative company investing in its future and North Queensland.”

Apart from the usual political posturing and petty point-scoring, Palaszczuk also highlighted the Government’s $1.16b Powering Queensland Plan, which hopes to provide electricity price relief for the state by investing $770m to offset the Solar Bonus Scheme. Other initiatives were also discussed, and the Premier reiterated the QLD Government’s commitment to a 50% RET (Renewable Energy Target) by 2030.

To read the premier’s full speech, please click here.

North Queensland Renewables Boom Interview

John Grimes of the Australian Solar Council and Rachel Watson, the GM of Australia Pacific Hydro, were also on Radio National last Saturday discussing the Haughton Solar Farm in Townsville and the other myriad solar projects currently in various stages of construction/planning across North Queensland. You can listen to the show on the ABC website by clicking here.

 

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.