The Australian Renewable Energy Agency is providing $22.8 million support towards the construction of a new big solar farm at the historic sheep and cattle grazing town of Barcaldine in Queensland near the Barcaldine Gas Power Plant.
The Barcaldine Remote Community Solar Farm – which is due for completion in April 2017 – is a 20 MW AC (25 MW DC) single axis tracking solar plant that will boost the creation of jobs in the region and promote large scale solar in Australia.
ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the project would not only benefit the region, but would also demonstrate how renewables can provide “network benefits” in locations at the fringes of the national electricity network.
“Fringe-of-grid locations in regional Australia face a number of challenges with reliability and outages caused by network constraints and a lack of infrastructure,” Mr Frischknecht said in a statement.
“There is a clear value proposition for large-scale solar in the Barcaldine area, which has an excellent solar resource and experiences voltage and frequency control issues as well as load management challenges.”
He said the new solar farm would alleviate peak demand pressures and provide voltage control, resulting in more reliable power supply to customers in the region.
“The potential for added battery storage to create additional network benefits will also be explored. This could allow the solar plant to work in tandem with the existing gas plant during a line outage, operating as an ‘island’ network independent to the main grid,” Mr Frischknecht added.
“This project will serve as a test case showing how the network benefits from distributed renewable energy can improve network efficiency, and potentially enable solar plants to access an extra revenue stream through network support payments.”
According to Mr Frischknecht, the early works will be carried out by employees from local community, while the construction phase is expected to create 175 new jobs.
“The plant will adopt the tracking technology currently being installed at the ARENA-supported Moree Solar Farm, providing a further benchmark and additional information on its installation and operation, to be shared with the energy industry,” Mr Frischknecht concluded.
The project site is approximately 90 hectares and located near the Barcaldine Gas Power Plant.
The $69 million project will also be supported by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation with $20 million in debt finance.