The 162 MW Columboola Solar Farm in the Western Downs of Queensland has commenced commercial operations with EPC contractor Sterling & Wilson announcing the project has achieved successful HP2 (Hold Point 2) completion and is now exporting up to 115 MW of clean energy into the grid. The solar farm is expected to commence commercial operations for its full capacity in early 2023.
Developed on a 410-hectare site about 10 kilometres northeast of the town of Miles, the Columboola Solar Farm comprises 410,000 bifacial solar panels mounted on single-axis trackers. When it achieves full capacity, the solar farm will generate approximately 440 GWh of clean energy annually, enough to power the equivalent of 100,000 households.
Owned by South Korea-based investment manager Hana Financial Investment, the project is backed by a long-term Power Purchase Agreement with Queensland government-owned utility CS Energy.
CS Energy will buy 100% of the site’s output, on-selling to its large commercial and industrial customers. Among the beneficiaries of the 10-year PPA is a group of universities including Griffith University, Central Queensland University and Queensland University of Technology (QUT).
Griffith University Chief Operating Officer Peter Bryant welcomed the start of commercial operations, saying all five of the university’s campuses will use power from the Columboola Solar Farm, which will provide 50% of the university’s energy needs.
“Griffith uses about 60 million kilowatt hours annually, contributing to around 70% of the university’s total carbon footprint,” he said. “It will also help us achieve our commitment of halving our 2010 emissions by 2030 and then to net zero emissions by 2050.”
Bryant added that projects like the Columboola Solar Farm are vital as universities are major consumers of electricity and have a relatively small geographic/rooftop footprint making it difficult to install enough solar or other renewable sources of power on campus.
“Off-site renewable generation via long-term power purchase arrangements means we can source renewable power when on-site options are insufficient to meet our needs and also provide essential market support for investment in new renewable projects across the state,” he said.
QUT Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Sheil said the Columboola Solar Farm will supply the university with enough renewable energy to cover 50% of the requirements at its Gardens Point and Kelvin Grove campuses.
Sheil said the tailored retail contract would provide QUT with a pathway to achieve full carbon neutrality on total electricity consumption, reducing the university’s carbon emissions by an estimated 20,000 tonnes per annum.
Queensland Energy Minister Mick de Brenni said the project will play an important role in the state reaching its target of 70% renewable energy by 2032, and 80% by 2035.
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