Connection issues continue to hamper large scale solar PV projects

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In a market updateto its investors Windlab has put on hold its plans for 60 MW Kennedy Energy Park wind, solar hybrid project. It was set to include 15 MW of PV.

Windlab has blamed the move on the “lack of progress on the Queensland Government’s proposed Clean Energy Hub (which included the part funding of a multi-user transmission line to be used by Big Kennedy).” The stagnation of the project is significant as the Kennedy Energy Park itself is the first project on a major grid to combine wind, solar and storage in a single installation. Before grid connection issues hit Windlab had plans to grow the generation capacity of the project up to as much as 1.2 GW.

Big Kennedy is one of a string of large-scale solar farms sitting idle in the face of connection issues hindering new renewable projects connecting to the grid. Reverberations are still being felt in the solar EPC sector from the 2018 collapse of RCR Tomlinson, also in part a victim of connection delays. And only last month Adani Renewables Australia’s 65 MW Rugby Run Solar Farm was finally able to start feeding electricity into the grid, over seven months after its construction had been completed. Meanwhile Tempo Australia’s 34 MW Cohuna Solar Farm in Victoria has only recently been able to get its project back on track after delays threatened to blow out costs.

According to a survey of industry executives released by the Clean Energy Council (CEC) in December 2018, grid connection and network access for new solar and storage progress was a top concern.

Chris Wilson, Co-founder and Managing Director of solar farm developers Terrain Solar told pv magazineAustralia back in March: “…the biggest challenge coning through is very much grid connection. It used to be that offtake and PPAs were the number one constraint in the development space, but now it’s very much shifting into understanding grid connection and risks and the risk of delays and the costs associated with grid connection.”

The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) is currently considering public submissions on the proposed rule changes requested by Adani Renewables Australia to the transmission loss factor framework. Submissions to AEMC’s consultation regarding the matter are due by July 18.