20 MW-AC PV plant goes online in Australia’s outback

Today the Barcaldine Remote Community Solar Farm, located in the Outback of Central West Queensland, began exporting electricity to the region’s grid two months ahead of schedule.

At 20 MW-AC this is the largest PV plant to be built in Queensland to date, with 78,000 PV modules mounted on single-axis trackers covering 900,000 square meters. Developer Elecnor Australia says the plant will ramp up and deliver full power by the end of the year.

The Barcaldine plant was one of the first to be supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which provided AU$22.8 million in funding. The plant additionally received AU$20 million debt finance from the nation’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht says that the early completion of the plant shows that the industry is getting more efficient at developing large solar projects. Australia has the world’s highest penetration of rooftop solar PV, but the nation’s first utility-scale solar plant was completed only in 2012 and this market still lags in progress compared with distributed generation.

However, this may be changing, particularly in Queensland. ARENA has agreed to provide AU$1.3 million in funding for a 15 MW-AC solar project which Canadian Solar is planning in Longreach, which is also in Queensland’s outback.

The Longreach solar project is part of 482 MW of utility-scale projects which ARENA approved for funding in September 2016.