If there was ever a place on Earth that was ideally suited to solar power, it is Queensland, Australia where the area north of Brisbane is known as the Sunshine Coast. It is close enough to the Equator that the sun pours down evenly from one end of the year to the next. And soon, the little town of Kilcoy northwest of Brisbane — or Brizzie, as the locals like to call it — will host an enormous new solar energy installation that will produce 1.5 GW of electricity when completed. To solve any problem with intermittency, there will be 500 MWh of battery storage integrated into the facility as well.
According to PV Magazine, the developer of the new solar energy farm is Sunshine Energy and this appears to be its first project so far as anyone knows. A filing with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission shows the company was registered in 2017 and it headquartered in Melbourne. Its principle shareholder is Hong Kong-based Eastern Union Limited and the bulk of its shares are owned by former director Anthony John Youssef and current director Chi Man Li, both of whom have a residence in Australia.
The 5100-acre solar farm will be built in three 500 MW sections and connect to the 275 kV high voltage national distribution network in Queensland. There will be two substations and the proposed 500 MWh of battery storage will be added after the solar farm is completed. Total cost of the project is given as $3.5 billion.
The Sunshine Energy website claims the installation will produce about 2,600 GWh of electricity each year. The proximity to the Queensland high voltage utility grid was a key factor in deciding where to place the new solar farm, which will be capable of powering 300,000 homes in Queensland. Up to 1,000 construction jobs will be created and 30 to 60 full time positions will be needed to maintain and operate the facility once completed.
The battery storage component of the project will consist of a number of self-contained units installed in 40′ shipping containers. Sunshine Energy says each unit will consist of a 4 MW lithium ion battery together with a battery management system, fire suppression equipment, a thermal management system, and associated switch gear. It calls its patented storage solution SEA-Power and says the batteries will provide “renewable energy smoothing and power quality management.” No details on the source of the battery cells have been provided.
The Sunshine Energy project will be the largest in Australia — for now. There are other larger projects waiting in the wings for regulatory approval — a 4 GW renewable energy hub in New South Wales and the 11 GW Asian Renewable Energy Hub that will export power to Southeast Asia via undersea transmission lines. Australia likes to think it is energy independent because it has enough coal to power itself for 1,000 years. But the sun will be around a lot longer than that and it has one other significant advantage over coal — it’s free.