110 MW Darling Downs solar farm finally opens after grid connection delays

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The $200 million Darling Downs Solar Farm, developed and constructed with the help of a $20 million grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), boasts 423,360 solar panels installed over 250 hectares. The facility’s generational capacity of 110 MW is enough to power 36,000 homes. 

The $200 million figure was that paid for by APA Group to Origin Energy, the original developers, in May 2017. Part of the deal was that Origin would take all of the farm’s output under a 12-year power purchase agreement (PPA). The PPA helped Origin meet its obligations under the federal large-scale renewable energy target. 

Though APA’s original contractor of the Darling Downs project, RCR Tomlinson, collapsed late last year, the primary source of the project’s delays has been the long queue to the grid in Queensland. Slightly ahead of Darling Downs in the queue was Adani’s first renewables project in Australia, the 65 MW Rugby Run Solar Farm waited seven months for its opening.   

Nevertheless, Darling Downs’ time has come. “Our new Darling Downs Solar Farm is a world-class renewables facility that demonstrates APA’s commitment to responsible energy,” said APA Group CEO and Managing Director Rob Wheals. “Darling Downs Solar Farm is part of our growing renewables infrastructure portfolio, which will, together with our gas infrastructure, contribute to Australia’s transition to a lower-carbon economy.” 

Queensland Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Dr Anthony Lynham MP officially opened the Darling Downs Solar Farm and posted a video to his Facebook page in which the minister praised the renewable energy facility for addressing climate change, “but also making energy cheaper for all Queensland families.”  

Lynham attended the project’s opening with nine local STEM students from Dalby State High and noted that in their attendance, they were “witnessing the energy of their future.” 

Queensland Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Dr Anthony Lynham MP with STEM students from the local Dalby State High at Darling Downs Solar Farm.

Image: Dr Anthony Lynham/Facebook

Though recent months have seen several major renewable projects in the grid queue squeeze through the door, there is still a long line awaiting entry. Only last month it was announced that the Kennedy Energy Park, Australia’s first project on a major grid to combine wind, solar and battery technologies has been further delayed due to complications in the connection process. Though the project was energised in August, it is not thought its energy will feed into the grid until 2020.