Western Australia welcomes its largest operating solar project


Risen Energy’s 132 MWdc Merredin Solar Farm in Western Australia’s Wheatbelt region has reached its full generation capacity and become the state’s largest operating PV project. The development is touted to be one of the fastest builds of a large-scale solar farm seen in Australia yet.

The Merredin Solar Farm is located on 460 hectares of former farming and grazing country adjacent to the 220 kV Western Power Merredin Terminal. It features 354,452 solar PV panels and has an expected output of 274 GWh of electricity annually, approximately enough to power 42,000 Western Australian homes.

The project created over 400 jobs in the construction phase and will require two full-time workers to maintain the installation now that it is generating at 100% capacity. For Western Australia, the Merredin Solar Farm is a valuable addition to the grid, which today hosts only a handful of large-scale solar projects, including Greenough River, which is adding a 30 MW second stage alongside its 10 MW sister plant, and 20 MW Emu Downs and Badgingarra solar farms, which are part of APA Group’s renewables precinct and colocated with bigger wind farms.

After the staged live commissioning was initiated in April, Risen worked closely with the network service provider, Western Power, and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) through the process.

“It has been a pleasure to work with Western Power and their smooth coordination with AEMO has enabled us to reach this milestone of achieving a fully operational solar facility which will supply green power,” said Eric Lee, General Manager of Risen Energy Australia.

The project broke ground in March last year and once construction began at full throttle it progressed rapidly towards completion. According to Risen, Merredin has been one of the fastest builds of a solar farm ever seen in Australia, with the mechanical completion achieved in just three months in collaboration with WA’s Monford Group.

The Chinese PV heavyweight contributes this achievement to its “large capacity to resource the project” that meant that all materials and resources were readily available onsite allowing it to be put together quickly and without delay. The facility will have an operating life of 30 years, with the option for an extension. At the end of the project’s operating life, the land will be returned to its former agricultural use.

Risen will initially go merchant on the Merredin Solar Farm and reportedly try for a power purchase agreement further down the line. The developer’s other project in Australia – the $160 million Yarranlea Solar Farm in Queensland – will also operate on a merchant basis. This project has added an advanced energy storage system developed by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) – a hybrid of lithium batteries and hydrogen fuel cells, with DC loss detection technology – to tackle the duck curve.

The Merredin and Yarranlea solar farms are part of the Chinese company’s ambitious plans to acquire over 2 GW of projects in Australia. On Wednesday, Lee said that Risen’s EPCM team has continued to hone its relationships “with several tier 1 and tier 2 construction companies” with a view to its future Australian projects, signaling its continued commitment to the gigawatt-scale goal.

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