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.

Eight new large-scale solar projects became operational in 2015, marking a breakthrough year for this extremely promising technology.

At the moment, our biggest operating large-scale solar PV plant is the 102 megawatt (MW) Nyngan facility in NSW which officially opened in 2015. 

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: 2015 in focus

Greenough River Solar Farm (First Solar)

Greenough River Solar Farm (First Solar)

Eclipsing the field were the 102 MW Nyngan solar plant and the 53 MW Broken Hill plant, developed by AGL and First Solar in New South Wales. The combined 155 MW of generation capacity from the two power plants will provide enough electricity for the equivalent of about 50,000 Australian homes.

At the end of 2015, Australia had 19 operational solar projects larger than 1 MW in size, including 17 solar farms which use photovoltaic technology and two solar thermal plants – a total of 217 MW of potential generating power.

Another large project, the 56 MW Moree Solar Farm by FRV, was launched in early 2016.

Top five large-scale solar plants in Australia - by generation (as at end of 2015)

Plant Owner Fuel source Capacity (MW)
Nyngan, NSW AGL Solar PV 102
Broken Hill, NSW AGL Solar PV 53
Royalla, ACT Fotowatio Renewable Ventures Solar PV 20
Greenough River, WA Synergy/GE Solar PV 10
Liddell III, NSW Areva/Macquarie Generation Solar thermal concentrator 9.3

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 2015