5 MW array to demonstrate value of grid edge solar

At the end of 1000km of electricity lines, the Normanton area in the far north of Queensland, in Australia’s northeast, has unreliable electricity supply. Transporting power over such vast distances also leads to significant power losses during transmission.

ARENA is hoping to demonstrate the role solar can play in supplying such areas, with a 5 MW PV power plant to be developed in the district. The 5 MW solar farm will receive AU$8.4 million (US$6.5 million) in support from ARENA.

“Adding renewable energy generation closer to where it’s needed can provide more reliable and efficient power. This is a key ARENA investment focus for fringe-of-grid and network constrained areas,” said ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht. “Normanton Solar Farm will act as a test case for network provider Ergon Energy to understand the true impact [of solar arrays] on network losses. This will provide a starting point to explore regulatory changes that would support more renewable energy installations in fringe-of-grid locations across Australia.”

The PV project is the second in Queensland’s far north aimed at demonstrating the role solar can play in supplying reliable power to remote locations. ARENA is also supporting the Weipa PV array, which will supply a remote bauxite mine, operated by Rio Tinto, with off grid electricity. The array will displace diesel currently used for electricity generation and there are plans for it to be extended to 6.7 MW.

ARENA is also supporting between 200 and 250 MW of large scale PV projects in Australia through a solar farm tender process. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) will provide complimentary debt finance under the scheme.

Canadian Solar and Scouller Energy will develop and own Normanton project. It scheduled for completion in December 2016. Utility Ergon Energy will purchase the electricity generated by the project under PPA. The three parties will provide data and analysis to ARENA as to the impact the 5 MW power plant has on the local grid and power supply.

“This will allow energy distribution businesses to consider whether it’s feasible to compensate large-scale solar plants for the network benefits they provide,” Frischknecht said. “This could make large scale solar plants more competitive and encourage more project developments, potentially increasing solar uptake and benefiting local communities where these projects can positively impact on the grid.”