Australia: FRV gets approval for 30 MW Queensland solar farm

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After a number of years of near hibernation, the Australian large scale PV market is building momentum. FRV looks set to develop a 30 MW solar farm near the town on Dalby, in the state of Queensland. The Western Downs Regional Council yesterday approved the project.

“We are committed to providing a stable and regulatory environment to encourage private sector investment and support opportunities for the industry in suitable locations,” said Council spokesman Andrew Smith. “The Western Downs is well-placed to house these types of developments. “We’ve got access to energy and electricity networks on broad-acre lands that get a lot of sun.”

Construction of the project is set to take place over the next 12 months. The project will create 90 jobs during the construction phase.

Dalby, in Queensland’s inland southeast, is also the site of Australian utility Origin Energy’s proposed 106.8 MW Darling Downs Solar Farm. The project has been invited by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to submit a full application under its Large Scale Solar (LSS) Competitive Round.

After the initial call for submissions, 22 “high merit” projects were invited by ARENA to submit project proposals for LSS grant funding. pv magazine understands that 20 project applications have been submitted. ARENA expects to announce the successful projects in September. Applicants have begun to step forward to promote their development, including Chinese wind developer Goldwind – which plans to develop a 20 MW project on the border of Queensland and New South Wales.

The prominent place of Queensland as a location to develop large scale solar was evident in the ARENA LSS shortlist, with 10 of the 22 shortlisted projects planned in the state. New South Wales followed next with eight projects, Victoria with two, and finally Western and South Australia with one project each.

Falling large scale solar costs have also been noted by ARENA, as it assess the proposed projects. In a recent statement, ARENA reported that while in 2013, projects were provided grant funding of AU$1.65/Wp for the Broken Hill, Nyngan and Moree solar parks, that had fallen to AU$0.43/Wp by last year, when the first round of LSS round of applications. With the final round of project proposals this year, that had fallen further again to AU$0.28/W.

While falling electricity demand has been a feature of Australia’s grids in recent years, Queensland is seeing an uptick in demand. This is largely due to a number of large natural gas liquefaction projects coming online, which draw large amounts of electricity from the grid. Queensland utility Ergon has tendered for 150 MW of large scale PV to meet part of this demand.

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