Clean Power

Published on September 1st, 2011 | by Susan Kraemer


Australia Gets Ten Times Bigger Solar Farm Following Carbon Tax

September 1st, 2011 by  

In its first solar investment in Australia, GE Energy Financial Services has partnered with US thin-film producer First Solar and local state-owned energy firm Verve Energy to build a solar farm ten times larger than any yet built in the country. It will supply electricity for a desalination plant in Western Australia, which has a mandate to use renewable power for all new desalination projects.

Australia – resource-cursed by plentiful coal – has seen a sharp uptick in international interest from renewable energy firms following this summer’s passage of carbon legislation by the Gillard government, which now puts a price ($23 per tonne) on CO2 emissions.  State legislation helps too. Now, all new desalination plants in Western Australia must use power generated from renewable sources.

The Southern Seawater Desalination Plant has contracted to buy 100% of the power from the Greenough River Solar Farm, which will produce energy when it is most needed during the day, and eliminating 25,000 tonnes per year of greenhouse gas emissions.

First Solar will supply the project with over 150,000 thin film modules and provide the engineering, procurement and construction, and operations and maintenance once the solar farm is operational. GE Energy Financial Services is fronting the money on a 50/50 basis along with state-owned power company Verve Energy.

“The solar farm will be the first utility-scale PV project in Australia, 10 times larger than any other operating solar project in the country”, says a press release from GE.

While it is true that this is a ten-fold jump in solar power for the coal-rich nation, the size is far from utility-scale at just 10 MW  (utility-scale power plants are more like 120 – 250 MW).

But neither is it homeowner-roof-scale. This is commercial-scale: ideal for very large operations such as desalination plants that use a lot of energy. Ten megawatts will nicely supply the daytime power needed by the desalination plant, and do a much cleaner and safer job of it than the fossil fuels currently used for this work.

It is the first Australian solar investment for GE, which has $400 million invested in 42 solar power debt and equity assets globally, a small beginning compared with its $20 billion and 30 GW in total energy investment.

Image: Solar Choice

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Susan Kraemer@Twitter

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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.

  • Will Rose

    It has some good effects and some bad effects. But i think that it will going to change something and create new.

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  • Electric38

    GE is doing great work overseas…. duh, doesn’t he head up the US Jobs Council? also see.. Jeff Immelt, Moves GE’s Health Care Unit to China.

    While GE could be promoting the installation of rooftop solar (consumer owned) which would create plenty of jobs in the US, and lower the power bills of American consumers, they are busy in other countries. How much did they pay in taxes?

    On another note, Australia has been the test grounds for several companies checking desert solar efficiencies. Any word on how this is going? Is this why a well known Wall Street investment firm bogged the BLM down with (public land in our desert areas) development applications that were never used?

    On another note, its a shame to see that Australians are so gullible. Go big business! Go corporate monopolies! Sorry consumers…

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  • Johnr

    This sounds like a terribly inefficient use of solar energy. Why not just concentrate the heat from the sun and use it directly. Solar thermal systems such a parabolic trough or solar tower sounds much more logical for this application. Converting sunlight into electricity and then electricity to heat is very wasteful.

    • Anonymous

      I would say it’s probably a reverse-osmosis desalination plant, using electric pumps to force water through membranes which won’t allow the salt to go with it.

  • Anonymous

    10 MW is enough to supply 10,000 homes!

    • Sonofdadska

      10MW is actually only about enough to supply around 2000 homes. That’s based on each kWp producing an average of 4 kWh per day and an average house consuming 20kWh per day. Still, a great way to go. The desal plant here in Adelaide has a 200kWp system on there, a bit of a token effort really.

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