As one of the sunniest countries on the planet, Australia is ideally placed to include large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) power as a major part of its energy mix.

Large-scale solar PV uses the same technology as rooftop solar panels – specially fabricated semiconductor crystals that convert light from the sun into electricity.

Seven new large-scale solar projects became operational in 2016, making it another strong year for a tehcnology that is rapidly coming of age.

Another type of large-scale solar technology is concentrated solar PV (CPV). CPV uses lenses or curved mirrors to concentrate a large amount of sunlight onto a relatively small solar PV array.

This means that less money needs to be spent on PV panels; however, the additional costs of lenses, mirrors and other infrastructure may cancel out these savings. Ongoing research into more efficient CPV technologies aims to bring the cost down further.

Large-scale solar PV in Australia: 2016 in focus

Greenough River Solar Farm (First Solar)

Greenough River Solar Farm (First Solar)

The 56 MW Moree Solar Farm in New South Wales developed by Fotowatio Renewable Ventures was the largest solar project of the year and is the second-largest in the country behind the 102 MW Nyngan solar plant, developed by AGL and First Solar. The 25 MW Barcaldine Solar Farm, planned and developed by Elecnor in Queensland, was also notable.

At the end of 2016, Australia had 12 solar projects larger than 5 MW in size. With the exception of one solar thermal plant, the solar farms used photovoltaic technology, and together they provided 319 MW of generation capacity.

Funding was announced for 480 MW of solar capacity in September across a dozen projects. These were split across Queensland (six projects), New South Wales (five projects) and Western Australia (one project). Many of these are expected to commence construction in 2017.

Large-scale solar plants commissioned in 2016

Technology Location Owner Capacity (MW)
Solar PV Moree Solar Farm, NSW Fotowatio Renewable Ventures 56
Solar PV Barcaldine, QLD Elecnor 25
Solar PV Mugga Lane, ACT Maoneng Australia 13
Solar PV Williamsdale, ACT Impact Investment Group 10
Solar PV De Grussa Mine, WA Sandfire Resources NL 10
Solar PV Darwin Airport, NT UGL 5.5
Solar PV Normanton, QLD Scouller Energy and Canadian Solar 5

 

Sources:

  • SunWiz Consulting, 2013
  • Realising the Potential of Concentrating Solar Power in Australia, Australian Solar Institute, 2012
  • Clean Energy Council Renewable Energy Database
  • Clean Energy Australia Report 2016