ASX-listed EPC Decmil Group has broken ground on one of Australia’s largest solar projects – the 255 MW Sunraysia Solar Farm, which will be coupled with a big grid connected battery of an unspecified capacity.
Between 350 – 400 people will be directly engaged by Decmil during the construction period with the accommodation camp running close to full occupancy as it continues to ramp up, Australian-Chinese renewables developer Maoneng said.
The Sunraysia Solar Farm is owned and operated by Maoneng and UK-based infrastructure investor John Laing, which invested $108.6 million in the project last year, taking a 90.1% stake.
Decmil Group is handling the EPC and O&M duties on the project on the back of a $277 million contract – the local contractor’s biggest EPC project to date.
Maoneng’s announcement confirmed what was previously signaled by Chinese module maker JinkoSolar, when announcing the module supply deal, that it has plans to add large scale battery storage to the site at a later date.
“As a responsible renewable energy developer, we are cognizant of the impact which renewable energy has, both good and bad,” said Qiao Nan Han, Vice President Maoneng Group.
“To improve the reliability and to minimize both the technical and commercial impact of our developments moving forward, we aim to implement energy storage systems capable of time-shifting large amounts of energy throughout the day. Only by doing this, as a matter of best practice, will we be able to transition towards a 100% renewable energy future.”
The Sunraysia Solar Farm is supported by power purchase agreements with the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and AGL Energy, both of which with a 15-year term.
The solar supply agreement with UNSW is the first of its kind in Australia – bringing together a retailer (Origin Energy), developer (Maoneng) and corporate (UNSW) with an eye on covering 100% of the University’s electricity demand with solar.
The tripartite agreement will see UNSW purchase up to 124,000 MWh of renewable energy per annum from the Sunraysia Solar Farm, meeting UNSW’s annual energy requirements starting in 2019, while Origin will ensure electricity supply to the university if the solar output falls short.
AGL’s offtake with the farm forms part of its NSW Generation Plan, which includes decommissioning of its aging Liddell coal-fired generator, and plays an important role in AGL’s transition towards cleaner and more affordable energy.
JinkoSolar was chosen to supply the project with more than 750,000 modules. It will ship its new Cheetah series to the project, which combine mono-PERC technology, in a half-cut cell module format. The Cheetah modules can achieve a power output above 400W, in a 72-cell configuration.
U.S.-based manufacturer Nextracker is supplying its NX Horizon single-axis solar trackers to the project.
The solar farm is connected to a 33/220kV substation co-located on-site where the energy is transferred to the Transgrid 220kV Balranald Substation. From there the energy is then transferred either towards Buronga/VIC or Darlington Point/NSW.
The Sunraysia solar project is expected to generate approximately 529GWh of energy per year when commissioned; which is the equivalent to powering up to 50,000 households.
Future plans with future interconnector
The Sunraysia project is Maoneng’s second significant project in the Australian market, the first being the 13 MW Mugga Lane Solar Park developed and built under the Australian Capital Territory government’s reverse solar auction. But, the developer’s future plans indicate it is building up an appetite for large scale solar in Australia.
Maoneng says it is presently preparing an additional 500 MW of solar to be added to the Sunraysia project and commissioned in line with the proposed SA/NSW interconnector, together with additional energy storage.
“Sunraysia is strategically placed to service multiple states and territories given its proximity to the proposed interconnectors and the main charging route for the Snowy 2.0,” said Qiao Nan Han.
“AEMO’s Integrated System Plan looks at various scenarios including the development of a large Renewable Energy Zone here at Balranald. We are excited to be part of this moving feast and welcome the challenges and responsibilities which come with these developments.”