Big solar PV has become mainstream Down Under. With around 850 MW of large scale solar currently under construction, and close to a further 1.2 GW having reached financial close and set to break ground, 2018 is shaping up as a record-breaking year for large scale solar.
At its Large-scale Industry Forum in Brisbane, the Clean Energy Council (CEC) has reported that, attracted by rapidly falling costs for PV power plant components and installation, construction companies and “major financiers” are showing a “huge amount of interest” in PV power plant opportunities and assets.
However, the investment and project distribution is far from evenly distributed amongst the state.
“Across the country, projects which are under construction, completed or have secured financial commitment add up to $5 billion in investment, with Queensland investments contributing more than half – 52%, or $2.6 billion,” said CEC CEO Kane Thornton. “All up, large-scale solar activity in the state adds up to almost 2670 direct jobs and 1400 MW of new clean energy.”
Thornton pointed to the role the Renewable Energy Target, and both the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and Clean Energy Finance Corporation has played in fostering the strong pipeline of projects – and the technology’s stellar cost trajectory.
“Large-scale solar has gone from an emerging technology in Australia at the beginning of the decade to a genuinely game-changing form of power that is cheaper than new coal or gas. It has exceeded the expectations of even the most optimistic predictions,” said Thornton.
While Queensland may dominate the states in terms of utility scale solar projects currently under development, the developer landscape remains quite diverse. Of the 22-odd plants currently being installed, some 17 different developers are involved.
In terms of solar module makers developing projects in-house, only First Solar (49 MW) and Canadian Solar (110 MW) are currently active – although Italy’s Enel Green Power, responsible for the 220 MW Bungala Solar Project in South Australia also produces heterojunction solar modules.
Edify Energy is responsible for the largest number of projects currenty under construction, executing four projects (216 MW) – one of which is in partnership with Germany’s Wirsol. One of the largest projects being built is the Sun Metals’ owned array in Queensland’s north (116 MW), which will supply power to the Korean zinc producer’s operations.
The Clean Energy Council reports that its Brisbane Forum was sold out, with 450 registrants attending. Chinese monocrystalline giant Longi Solar was the event’s major sponsor.