14 December 2016
Central Queensland's Barcaldine Solar Farm is marking a significant milestone, having generated and fed its first power into the grid. The achievement highlights the potential and growing maturity of the large-scale solar sector in Australia.
CEFC Large-Scale Solar lead Gloria Chan congratulated developers Elecnor on reaching first energy generation for the project, within just a year of the CEFC announcing its $20 million finance commitment. The project received a further $22.8 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).
"The Barcaldine Solar Farm has been a fast build, demonstrating how knowledge and expertise developed for Australian conditions is benefiting the entire solar sector," Ms Chan said.
"Shorter construction times, increased knowledge, and access to suitable finance are among factors helping bring these kinds of projects down the cost curve. Construction of this solar farm in a fringe-of-grid location will also provide important learnings for other off-grid remote area solar PV projects.
While Australia leads the world in the installation of residential solar PV - which now reaches 16 per cent of households - the International Energy Agency ranks Australia as just sixth overall in total PV capacity per capita, and eighth in the world on the contribution of solar PV to total electricity generation (at 2.5% in 2015).
Modelling by Jacobs for the Climate Change Authority has found that large-scale solar could make up as much as 18 per cent of Australia's electricity generation by 2030.
The CEFC has a strong track record in the financing of large-scale solar in Australia, both through direct and indirect financing, and is supporting the development of about a third of the total 300MW of large-scale solar currently installed or under construction in Australia.
The CEFC is in the final stages of assessing projects under its large-scale solar program which, when fully deployed, will represent the largest lending commitment to the large-scale solar sector in Australia to date. The program provides project proponents with fixed-rate, short or long-dated senior debt, including projects which may receive ARENA grant funding.
"We are supporting solar's progress as a maturing and lower-cost technology, and it is important that we maintain its momentum within Australia's transitioning energy sector," Ms Chan said.
"Tailored financing mechanisms, such as those developed by the CEFC, have the potential to close future financing gaps. We are actively working with project proponents and other lenders to provide cost competitive finance to further accelerate the construction of large-scale solar in Australia.
"This significant Barcaldine Solar Farm milestone is further practical demonstration of how Australia's clean energy sector is on track for a very substantial increase in large-scale solar capacity which is essential for Australia's changing energy mix and the delivery of the Renewable Energy Target."
The $69 million Barcaldine Solar Farm is expected to be fully operational in the first quarter of 2017, generating around 57,000 MWh of clean energy per year - enough power to meet the energy needs of around 5,300 average households. Its 20MW AC (25MW DC) capacity is served by 79,000 solar modules across 90 hectares. Its position adjacent to an existing transmission substation enables grid connection. The project's development provided up to 175 job at peak construction.
ARENA was established by the Australian Government to make renewable energy technologies more affordable and increase the supply of renewable energy in Australia. Through the provision of funding coupled with deep commercial and technical expertise, ARENA provides the support needed to accelerate the development of promising new solutions towards commercialisation. ARENA invests in renewable energy projects across the innovation chain and is committed to sharing knowledge and lessons learned from its portfolio of projects and information about renewable energy. ARENA always looks for at least matched funding from the projects it supports and to date has committed $1.1 billion in funding to more than 270 projects. For more information, visit www.arena.gov.au.