Neoen’s Culcairn Solar Farm nearing construction

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Neoen’s 400 MW Culcairn Solar Farm and energy storage facility in the South East Riverina region of New South Wales (NSW), approximately 45km north of Albury near the town of Culcairn, promises to be one of the largest solar and storage facilities in Australia. 

The project, a NSW State Significant Development (SSD), opened its exhibition phase at the end of January with the release of its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). It is no surprise NSW is keen to give the project every opportunity to succeed, with a potential generational capacity of more than 800,000 MWh of clean solar energy entering into the National Energy Market (NEM) annually, enough to supply electricity to 140,000 homes. 

Neoen approximates the Culcairn Solar Farm’s renewable generation (350 MW [AC] / 402.5 MW [DC]) could provide a carbon reduction equivalent to taking more than 245,000 cars off the road or planning more than 1.28 million trees. 

Australia was French developer Neoen‘s number one market in 2019, and concordantly, Neoen was Australia’s top independent renewable energy producer. Neoen identified Australia as a particularly ripe market for utility-scale solar PV investment several years ago, and as of end-September 2019, the company had 1.1 GW of assets in operation or under construction. 

Other notable Neoen projects include Victoria’s 128 MW Numurkah Solar Power Plant (one of two solar farms supplying 100% renewable energy to offset Melbourne’s entire tram network), and most notably the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery, the 100 MW (and growing!Hornsdale Power Reserve, also known as the ‘Tesla Big Battery’. 

The Culcairn project proposes to install approximately 1.1 million single-axis tracker solar PV panels and a Climate Controlled Battery Energy Storage Facility to house up to 100 MW / 200 MWh of battery storage capacity. The developers are currently deciding between the use of either the Ideematec tracker system and the NexTracker system. 

It will come as no surprise, considering the success of the Hornsdale Power Reserve and Neoen’s proposed hybrid power plant in South Australia, the Goyder South project featuring 900 MW of battery storage, that the Culcairn site’s climate controlled energy storage facility will house Tesla batteries. 

The Culcqairn site is particularly fertile to utility-scale solar due to its proximity to TransGrid’s 330 kilovolt (KV) Jindera to Wagga Wagga transmission line. In fact, the transmission line actually runs through the site enabling Culcairn to connect directly with the aid of a new substation to be operated by TransGrid. 

Neoen plans to commence construction in Q4 2020 and is expected to take up to 18 months. The exhibition period is open until 27 February