Australia Adding One Mega-Solar Project Per Month

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Australia’s solar irradiance is off the charts. Credit Geoscience Australia

Australia is adding one mega-solar project equivalent per month, with the current installed base of 10 gigawatts projected to double by the end of 2020. The latest mega-solar project is the 333 megawatt Darlington Point Solar Farm headed for Griffith, New South Wales, according to Array Technologies, which is providing the single-axis trackers for the project.

Australia’s solar industry virtually rocketed during 2018, when 1.5 gigawatt (GW) of solar came online, roughly 10 times as much solar as came online in 2017 (around 150 MW), according to SunWize Solar Consultants. “You can reasonably expect that 2019 will set another record volume for solar farms commissioned,” the consultant projected in February.

Most of the Australian solar growth in generation capacity is coming from the utility segment. Although, commercial, industrial, and residential installs also continue at record paces, according to the Australian PV Institute (APVI). Australia now has over 10.1 GW of solar installed, capable of delivering 14.6 terawatt-hours of electricity per year and meeting more than 5.5% of Australia’s energy demand, the organization reckons.

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Global demand for solar trackers continues to grow rapidly in locations with higher irradiance — like Australia — where solar tracking can deliver 20–25% increased power production. In Australia, the government is supporting utility-scale solar with its Solar Flagships Program at a cost of $1.5 billion, as part of its Clean Energy Initiative to support the construction and demonstration of large-scale solar power stations in Australia.

Another driving factor in the Australian solar market is the utility-scale adoption of solar+storage. This technology combination helps utilities avoid refurbishing or expanding the poles-and-wires components of their assets, especially in more remote areas where solar microgrids can essentially substitute grid dependence.

The commercial solar segment also is expanding, thanks in large part to corporate property developers. “Property giants such as Dexus, Goodman, Charter Hall, Vicinity, GPT Group and Stockland are leading the charge with more than 62 MW of generating capacity under consideration,” the Sydney Morning Herald reported March 9.

“If delivered, that alone will account for more than two thirds of the large rooftop systems – with a capacity greater than 100 kilowatts – installed last year in Australia,” the Herald added.

Residential solar installations also are growing rapidly. “With 1.95 million installations in Australia, and growing at over 15,000 per month, we expect to have over 2 million installs by the end of 2018,” APVI calculated in September. That number already represents about 20% of all Australian households.

“The number of households with solar rooftops, in true sun-loving Aussie nature, peaked at two million in 2018, with Queensland leading the national installations,” wrote SolarPlaza on February 8.

“Massive projects, such as this one, require the lowest levelized cost of energy from their tracking technology in order to stack up economically and we are pleased to offer the best solution,” said says Jeff Krantz, executive vice president of global sales at Array, in the announcement.

The Darlington Point project is a joint venture between Australian renewable energy developer Edify Energy and Octopus Investments, and will provide power to over 115,000 Australian homes annually.

“We have chosen Array Technologies to supply solar trackers to the Darlington Point Solar Farm because Array delivers an innovative, robust tracking solution that through engineered simplicity, reduces long-term maintenance to deliver the lowest levelized cost of energy for our projects,” said John Cole, chief executive of Edify Energy.

Array claims to have the lion’s share of the Australian solar utility market. “Array has established itself in Australia as the preferred solar tracker company with 55% market share reported in 2018 by Wood-Mackenzie’s Greentech Media, Array said. The company has supplied over 1.5 GW of technology to Australian solar farms to date. 

Albuquerque-Based Array boasts over 25 GW years of energy production and over 10 GW of solar trackers shipped globally. 

Signal Energy Australia, headquartered in Sydney NSW, is a full-service design/build contractor providing Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) services for utility-scale renewable energy projects. Signal Energy Australia is a subsidiary of Signal Energy LLC.

Octopus Investments Australia is the largest non-utility investor in onshore renewables in the UK, and also the largest commercial solar player in Europe with an AUD $4.5 billion portfolio of clean energy assets, totaling 2 GW. Since 2011, the team has built positions as an investor and manager of solar, wind, biogas, biomass, landfill gas, and reserve power assets. It plans to launch two new renewable energy funds in Australia in 2019,.

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