Total Eren seeks to expand Australian PV project to 450 MW

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French renewables developer Total Eren has announced the start of construction of Victoria’s largest solar PV plant, the 256.5 MW Kiamal Solar Farm, and revealed ambitious plans to add a second stage project. The project is also set to feature a utility-scale energy storage.

At the ceremony marking the commencement of construction, Total Eren said it is now looking to expand its first solar PV project in Australia, the Stage 1 of Kiamal solar PV plant, with a stage 2 of up to 194 MW, as well as exploring commercial options for the approved 380 MWh of energy storage.

“The successful start of construction of Kiamal Solar Farm is an important milestone for us as this is not only our first project in Australia but also our largest solar project worldwide,“ said Fabienne Demol, Total Eren Executive VP – Global Head of Business Development.

Overcoming grid setbacks

The Kiamal Solar Farm located near Ouyen in Victoria’s north-west has been facing delays due to connection issues, being located in an area with not enough grid strength to support such a project.

Earlier this year, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) warned against significant curtailment in such cases. In order to improve system strength, developers were faced with a choice of installing additional components, such as costly synchronous condensers, or simply waiting for a network upgrade, which could take years.

In case of the Kiamal Solar Farm, Total Eren opted for the first option.

“The Kiamal Solar Farm is unique in that it has committed to install a more than 100MVAr synchronous condenser as part of the generating system in order to facilitate a timely connection to the Victorian Transmission System, in turn substantially strengthening the grid in the region and making it possible to connect even more renewables in north-west Victoria,“ it said in statement.

The company is now working with TransGrid to deliver a new 220 kV Kiamal Terminal Station and Collector Substation, with transformers designed and manufactured locally by Wilsons Transformers in Victoria.

“Total Eren has an ambitious vision for the development of renewable energy in Australia, and partnering with major industry players ranging from manufacturing, utility and retail is an important lever in our strategy to becoming a significant player in the national renewable energy market,” Demol said.

Project background

The $90 million Kiamal Solar Farm has three bilateral PPAs in place with one corporate and two Victorian energy retailers for the supply of electricity and green certificates.

Mars Australia has signed a 20 year PPA with Kiamal Solar Farm as part of its plan to go 100% solar by 2020. The confectionary giant has contracted energy to cover the equivalent of the electricity requirements of its six Australian factories (Asquith, Ballarat, Bathurst, Wacol, Wodonga & Wyong) and two sales offices (Melbourne & Sydney).

Another PPA deal for the Kiamal Solar Farm was inked with commercial electricity retailer Flow Power in June, as the retailer’s first solar PPA.

There has been a change with regard to the third offtaker of the farm’s output. According to Total Eren, this will be Victorian retailer Alinta Energy, which has replaced green energy-oriented electricity retailer Powershop Australia, owned by New Zealand’s utility Meridian Energy, that announce the PPA with the Kiamal farm in February.

Overall, the Kiamal Solar Farm will be made up of over 720,000 PV panels with single-axis trackers covering over 500 hectares. 

The construction is led by Biosar Australia, a unit of Greek infrastructure group Aktor S.A., and Canadian Solar, Chinese solar PV technology supplier.

The site will employ around 200 workers during construction, and seven for the operational phase once the project reaches commercial operations in mid-2019.