The long-awaited Barnawartha Solar Farm looks set to find its 25-30 years in the sun. Developer Wirsol Energy, which has a portfolio of Australian projects to its name, announced last week that it has acquired land rights to develop the 75-85 MWp plant on 120 hectares, 20 kilometres west of Wodonga in Victoria.
Wirsol is a subsidiary of global, German-based renewable energy group, Wircon, and specialises in utility-scale solar. It said in a statement last week that it is looking for solar projects and acquisitions to add to its portfolio; and flagged that battery storage solutions are likely to be part of any development, in order to achieve “optimal performance in the Australian market, whilst supporting the stability of the grid”.
At this stage, Barnawartha will not include a battery, but Wirsol says it will “co-develop” the project with ARP Australian Solar, a privately owned financier, developer and installer with projects listed on its site that include Morwell Solar Farm in the heart of Victoria’s coal country, as well as a 30 MW version of Barnawartha.
A solar farm at Barnawartha was first mooted in 2010 as a 152 MW installation, but a report in the Renewable Albury Wodonga (RAW) Energy newsletter says that was “shelved” due to unfavourable economic conditions.
In 2018, a project on or near the same site as Wirsol is now developing was re-envisaged as a 50 MW solar farm, a joint venture between Melbourne consultancy Heliades, which brokers investment and development opportunities for South Korean companies, and S-Energy, a Korea-based solar panel manufacturer that was spun off from electronics giant Samsung in 2001.
Their joint entity known as Wodonga Solar Power, was reported by The Border Mail in September last year as having failed to secure grid connection for the solar farm, which again caused the project to be abandoned.
Canny operator with Australian experience
Wirsol has a strong track record as a successful developer of solar and battery projects in Australia despite having had to deal with some of the industry’s greatest travails, from Covid-19 challenges to curtailments caused by a quavering grid and grid connection conundrums..
It was project manager of 149 MWp Glenrowan West Solar Farm during its Covid-constrained construction and commissioning phase, and now operates the plant on behalf of German owners Wirtgen Invest, which acquired the rights to develop Glenrowan West in July 2019.
It is co-owner with Edify Energy of the 25 MW/50 MWh Gannawarra Energy Storage System, a pioneering retrofit to Gannawarra Solar Farm that overcame many regulatory hurdles and which reached completion in late 2018.
Wirsol’s other Australian projects to date include the 60 MWp Whitsunday Solar farm in Queensland, the 110 MWp Wemen Solar Farm in north-western Victoria and the 90 MWp Clermont Solar Farm in Queensland.
The company says it looks forward to taking the Barnawartha project “through to its ‘shovel-ready’ stage”.
Wirsol’s acquisition of the rights to develop Barnawartha comes in the wake of the Victorian Government’s second reverse auction in support of the Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET-2), this time for at least 600 MW of new large-scale renewable energy capacity.
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