Spanish-Japanese company Univergy Solar has teamed with Canberra-based New Energy Development to develop the 100 MW Wallaroo Solar Farm on the border between New South Wales (NSW) and Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
The $170 million project also includes a 10 MW/20 MWh battery energy storage system (BESS) but New Energy project developer Dan Flynn said there is scope to expand that to 75 MW/150 MWh and it is increasingly likely that will occur.
Flynn said with Australia’s energy market transitioning to a future increasingly reliant on storage to firm up the expanding volume of renewable energy, it is likely the storage component of the project will be increased before the solar farm comes online.
“It’s a huge consideration at the moment,” he said.
“It’s very likely with the changes in the energy market that Wallaroo could and likely will evolve and we’ve designed it in a way that we can actually do that.”
Green light from environment department
While a final decision is yet to be made on the storage capacity, the solar PV project is progressing with Flynn confirming the proposal had in recent weeks received the tick of approval from the federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE).
The project was referred to the department earlier this year due to the site being a known habitat of two endangered lizard species.
The department has however deemed the project can go ahead in its intended form.
“It was concluded that a significant impact on both of these threatened species was very unlikely,” the department said. “As such, the proposal is considered unlikely to affect the matters of national environmental significance.”
The Wallaroo Solar Farm will comprise an estimated 260,000 panels, an onsite substation and the battery storage system. The panels will be positioned on single axis tracking structures and the developers expect the facility will generate about 260,000 MWh of solar energy annually, providing power for up to 48,000 homes.
The project will connect to the National Electricity Market (NEM) via TransGrid’s existing 132 kV transmission line that traverses the 393-hectare site and connects to the nearby Canberra Substation.
“It’s a really strong part of the grid being so close to Canberra’s main substation and to the load centre,” Flynn said.
“We’re just working through completing all the appropriate studies now and making sure we tick all the boxes.
“We’re concurrently working on all the development approvals and the connection approvals, and we see those being completed around Q1 2022.”
Construction is expected to commence by July 2022 and will likely take 18 months to complete.
While the project will be in NSW, the site is less than one kilometre away from the Canberra suburbs of Dunlop and Macgregor and Flynn said the local community will be able to benefit directly with the developers teaming with Localvolts Electricity Exchange, a peer-to-peer platform for the buying and selling of energy, to provide nearby residents with access to renewable energy at a discounted rate.
“We are allocating some of the generation from Wallaroo Solar Farm and putting it through Localvolts,” he said.
“Localvolts will purchase of the power directly from the solar farm and provide the local community with energy that is much cheaper than what they’re currently paying now.”
The Wallaroo Solar Farm is part of a growing portfolio for New Energy Development with Flynn confirming the company is currently involved in the development of 12 large-scale solar farms with a combined generation capacity of 1.97 GW.
New Energy is a shareholder in the 1 GW Harlin Solar Farm being developed in Queensland, and is engaged as a consultant for the 100 MW Cunderdin Solar Farm project in Western Australia (WA).
The Cunderdin Solar Farm, being developed by Indian-Australian utility scale PV developer Sun Brilliance Power, has experienced significant delays since it was first mooted in 2017 but Flynn said construction is due to commence in January 2022.
The project has undergone significant growth since it was first proposed and now includes a 53.5 MW/214 MWh battery energy storage system, tipped to be the biggest largest in WA.
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