The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.

Australia Flips the Switch on Its Largest Solar Farm

Australia's largest solar farm went online earlier this month in a small step on the way to achieving the country's ambitious renewable energy target.

Located in Western Australia’s Midwest at one of the world’s best solar sites, the 10-MW Greenough River Solar Farm — co-owned by local utility Verve Energy and GE Energy Financial Services — has over 150,000 thin film PV modules supplied by Arizona-based First Solar.

The partners are already looking at the possibility of expanding the plant to 40 MW to satisfy growing demand for renewable energy in a country that aims to generate 20 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020.

“As the largest photovoltaic solar plant in operation in Australia, the Greenough River Solar Farm demonstrates that renewable technologies can contribute to meeting Australia's future energy needs on a sustainable, cost-competitive basis,” Verve Energy chief executive Jason Waters said in a statement.

First Solar estimates as much as 3 GW to 5 GW of solar PV plants may be built in Australia by

2020. It is confident of capturing at least 30 percent of that, chief executive officer Jim Hughes told analysts on a conference call in July.

The significance of the Greenough River project is not so much the size, but the fact that it is the first in Australia.

“It gave us the opportunity to start building our local capability to build large-scale solar projects,” First Solar’s local senior manager Rob Bartrop told Renewable Energy World. “We do definitely think Australia has all the right ingredients to be a successful to be a very successful long-term solar market.”

Greenough’s opening came after Australian developer Epuron acquired the 1-MW Uterne solar power plant in Alice Springs – in Australia’s Northern Territory – from San Jose-based SunPower. The Uterne project deploys high-efficiency SunPower solar panels installed on trackers, which positions panels to follow the sun during the day, increasing daily energy production by up to 30 percent. 

Australia’s Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) provided project financing, making it the country's first major bank-supported large-scale solar project. While commonplace in Europe and the US, Australian banks have had little opportunity to invest in such solar projects. 

In a statement, GE Energy Financial Services managing director Matt O'Connor pointed to “incredible investment opportunities” in Australia after completing the Greenough River project – the financier’s first foray into renewable energy investment in Australia.

The 10-MW Greenough River project was built without bank debt, with co-owners Verve Energy and GE financing it out of their own pockets.

First Solar’s Bartrop sees a very healthy future for renewable energy project financing in Australia. “Over time we’ll see the big four local banks boost lending to solar projects…our feedback from the local banks have been very positive,” said Bartrop. “Banks are very interested [in providing finance] – they want to get involved in solar projects now they have learnt how solar resources and systems work.”

First Solar has already been successful in one of the Australia’s major competitive tenders. With Australian utility AGL Energy, First Solar won a federal government grant to build 159 MW of solar PV in New South Wales (NSW) through the Solar Flagships program.

RELATED ARTICLES

Rooftop Solar Panels

Hypocrisy? While Buffett Champions Renewables, His Company Fights Rooftop Solar

Mark Chediak, Noah Buhayar and Margaret Newkirk, Bloomberg Warren Buffett highlights how his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. utilities make massive investments in renewable energy. Meanwhile, in Nevada, the company is fighting a plan that would encourage more residents to use green power.
Japan Microgrid

Born from Disaster: Japan Establishes First Microgrid Community

Junko Movellan, Correspondent Although Japan's Fukushima prefecture is most commonly associated with the 2011 disaster due to the nuclear power melt-down, Miyazaki prefecture, located north of Fukushima, suffered from the largest death toll, close to 10...
Renewable Energy Finance

Clean Energy ETFs Are on a Tear

Eric Balchunas, Bloomberg Green investing used to be synonymous with losing money. But while the S&P 500 Index is up 2 percent this year, and the MSCI All-Country World Index is up 5 percent, clean energy ETFs have double-digit re...

Wheels, Towers and Trees: Unconventional Renewable Energy Technologies in the Pipeline

Andrew Williams, International Correspondent A number of companies around the world are developing novel technologies in an effort to grab a slice of the global renewable energy market.  Although many of these technologies are simple incremental improvements to e...
Independent journalist with a background in sustainable business and ethical finance, the renewable and low-emission energy sectors, climate-change science and policy and the not-for-profit sector.

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

03/01/2015
Volume 18, Issue 3
file

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

EU PVSEC 2015 (European PV Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition)

The EU PVSEC is the largest international Conference for Photovoltaic re...

CA Wine Industry's 2015 Solar Update- WEBINAR

Proceeds from event registration will go to the CA Sustainable Win...

SMA More Power, More Profit Tour - Duluth

SMA’s More Power, More Profit Tour is aimed to provide highly-valu...

COMPANY BLOGS

EU PVSEC 2014: Call for Papers Receives Great Response

More than 1,500 contributions apply for presentation in AmsterdamScienti...

EU PVSEC 2014 extends its Scope

Added focus on application and policy topicsAbstracts for conference con...

Solar Impulse Flying From China to Hawaii

The team behind Solar Impulse, the solar-powered airplane, is prepa...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS