Australia to develop solar plant ‘four times’ size of Sydney

The two projects will see around two million solar panels erected in Australian outback

AGL estimates over 450 construction jobs will be created at the two project locations. (Source: First Solar)

By Nilima Choudhury 

The largest solar energy project in the southern hemisphere, costing A$450 million, has been given the go-ahead by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the New South Wales government.

Renewable energy company AGL Energy (AGL) said it will construct two large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) installations, a 102MW solar plant at Nyngan and a 53MW solar plant at Broken Hill, both in New South Wales.

On an annual basis, the AGL projects will produce approximately 360,000MW hours of electricity, which will be sufficient to meet the needs of over 50,000 average NSW homes.

AGL will deliver these projects in partnership with ARENA and the NSW Government, together with the local councils and communities of Broken Hill and Nyngan, and project partner First Solar

To support AGL’s delivery of the projects, ARENA will provide A$166.7 million and the NSW government will provide A$64.9 million.

The world’s largest thin-film solar company First Solar will be responsible for engineering, procurement and construction services.

Construction of the Nyngan project is expected to commence in January 2014, with completion scheduled for 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.

The AGL solar projects will also facilitate research supported by the Education Investment Fund. The company will collaborate with the University of Queensland and the University of New South Wales, as well as First Solar, to implement original research which will support the future development of solar energy in Australia.

AGL estimates over 450 construction jobs will be created at the two project locations, with more local jobs created to support the construction workforces. Approximately five permanent local jobs will also be created to support on-going plant operations at each site.

Despite this milestone, market analysts at IHS solar are forecasting a decline in the Australian PV market this year, to around 750MW compared to over 900MW last year.

“We are predicting that the market will resume growth next year but will take a few more years to reach 2012 levels,” Lauren Cook, analyst at IHS, told RTCC.

“The PV market in Australia is mostly made up of residential systems but with the ending of incentives and increasing electricity prices, IHS solar predicts that commercial and utility-scale installations will increase in market share.

“Our forecast assumes that utility-scale installations will begin to take off from 2014 onwards due to the length of time required to plan the projects and increasing electricity prices. IHS solar forecasts that utility-scale installations larger than 5 MW will account for over 20% of the Australian PV market in 2015.”

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