CONSTRUCTION of the largest solar power station in the Southern Hemisphere is set to commence as early as January next year, with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) reaching financial close with AGL Energy Limited, Federal Climate Change Minister Mark Butler announced last week.
The $450 million project will be built across two sites in western NSW, with a 102-megawatt solar plant at Nyngan and a 53-megawatt solar plant at Broken Hill, covering a combined area four times the size of the Sydney CBD and generating power for up to 50,000 homes.
Mr Butler said the project is 15 times larger than any other solar power station in Australia and represents a big step forward towards making solar a bigger part of Australia's energy mix, adding that the Australian Government is committed to transitioning Australia to a clean energy future.
"Australia has the highest average solar radiation per square metre of any continent in the world and we should take advantage of that natural asset," Mr Butler said.
Resources and Energy Minister Gary Gray said the announcement was a major milestone for AGL and the government that would help boost investor confidence in large utility-scale solar and pave the way for future investment.
Construction of the Nyngan project is expected to commence in January 2014, with completion scheduled by mid-2015. Construction of the Broken Hill project will start approximately six months later, in July 2014, and is scheduled to be completed around November 2015.
First Solar (Australia) Pty Ltd will provide engineering, procurement and construction services for both projects, in addition to operating and maintaining the power stations on behalf of AGL for five years after commercial operation starts.
Mr Butler said that since 2007, Australia's wind capacity has trebled and that in the past year, carbon pollution in the National Electricity Market is down by around 7 per cent and renewable energy generation such as wind and solar power is up by 25 per cent.