Ratch gets green light for 70 MW solar farm in Victorian coal country


Independent power producer Ratch Australia, a subsidiary of Thailand’s Ratch Group, said it has secured a planning permit from the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to build the 70 MW Morwell Solar Farm and battery energy storage project on the outskirts of Morwell in the Latrobe Valley.

Ratch Australia, which has assumed ownership of the Morwell project from original developer ARP Australian Solar, said it is yet to secure a connection agreement for the project but expects to begin construction in the second half of 2022 with the asset to come online in 2024.

Ratch Australia communications officer Mieka White told local reporters last week the company was preparing to call for expressions of interest for construction tenders and will now focus on furthering the technical design of the project.

The $105 million project will comprise an estimated 230,000 solar PV modules and associated infrastructure spread across two sites totalling 170 hectares. The planning approval also allows for a 5 MW-30 MW battery storage system which could be constructed during stage two of the project.

The asset is expected to generate enough electricity to power 23,000 average Victorian households a year, saving more than 146,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.

The sites are less than one kilometre from the shuttered coal-fired Hazelwood Power Station and will link via an underground cable. The solar farm will connect to the grid via another underground cable to the nearby Morwell Terminal Station.

The project will look to benefit from the existing infrastructure in the area.

Image: ARP

The Latrobe Valley has long been considered the heart of Victoria’s coal country and is home to four coal-fired power stations including the Loy Yang A, Loy Yang B and Yallourn facilities and the decommissioned Hazelwood which was shuttered in 2017 and demolished late last year.

Loy Yang B power station which is owned by Alinta Energy is scheduled to close in 2047. AGL owns Loy Yang A and has flagged closing its facility by 2048 while Energy Australia has set a closing date of 2028 for the Yallourn facility.

White said the Latrobe Valley’s legacy of coal-fired power generation had left an abundance of grid connection infrastructure in the district, which made for an ideal site.

“The site is flat and this is perfect for us, and it is surrounded by industrial sites that we will liaise with to arrange power purchasing agreements,” she said.

“The grid is also very strong with capacity from the former Hazelwood Power Station just there, which makes the site very attractive.”

ARP said in its planning application the Morwell Solar Farm would help “fill the void” left by the decommissioned coal-fired power stations.

“The Latrobe Valley area has played a key role in Victoria’s power generation and ARP wish to continue this with producing modern, clean, green renewable power,” the company said.

“Hazelwood has been switched off, and Yallourn will be switched off, this is a much-needed development, we need many of these projects to fill the gap left by coal-fired power stations.”

The 42.5 MW Collinsville Solar Farm is part of Ratch’s renewable energy portfolio.

Ratch has built a 1.2 GW portfolio of renewable energy projects and gas-fired power stations since its arrival in Australia in 2011.

The Morwell Solar Farm is however just its second solar asset in Australia, adding to the operational 42.5 MW Collinsville Solar Farm in Queensland.

The company’s main focus has until now been wind energy, with six wind farms included in its generation portfolio.

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