ACEN marches ahead with 720 MW New England Solar Farm


The Australian arm of Philippines-based clean energy company AC Energy said it is working through various “hold points” with the 400 MW first stage of the New England Solar Farm, which forms part of a massive solar and energy storage project being developed near Uralla in northern New South Wales (NSW).

ACEN Australia Chief Executive Officer Anton Rohner said the first stage of the solar farm is now progressing through its hold point testing process after the project was granted formal approval to send power to the grid by the Australian Energy Market Organisation (AEMO) in December.

Rohner said the first stage is expected to be generating at full name plate capacity of 400 MW in the coming months.

“We’re going through the commissioning process as we speak,” he said. “We are approximately 100 MW today and … you’ll see us ramping up to full production over the next four to five months.”

The New England Solar Farm is being developed in two stages and will eventually comprise a 720 MW solar installation combined with a 50 MW/50 MWh big battery which has scope to be scaled up to 200 MW/400 MWh.

Construction of the first stage of the big battery has already commenced and ACEN expects a financial investment decision to be made on stage two of the solar farm later this year, with construction to begin before the end of 2023.

“We’re just corralling the appropriate contracts into place and making sure we have the appropriate panels, the right environmental approvals and infrastructure in place,” Rohner said.

Once the entire 720 MW project is complete, it is anticipated it will produce 1,800 GWh of renewable electricity each year, enough to power more than 250,000 households.

Federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen with, from left, local member Adam Marshall, ACEN CEO Eric Francia and ACEN Australia CEO Anton Rohner.

Image: ACEN Australia

Rohner said ACEN has opted to build the New England Solar Farm on a fully merchant basis to ensure it is online in time to help replace closing coal-fired power stations in NSW.

“We wanted to get things built, to decarbonise Australia,” he said. “I truly believe that the work ACEN Australia is doing to accelerate Australia’s transition to a renewable energy future is here and now – and it starts with New England Solar.”

ACEN Chief Executive Officer Eric Francia said the official opening of the New England Solar Farm establishes Australia as a “stronghold” for the company’s renewables expansion in the region.

“The Australia team continues to harness the country’s outstanding potential for clean energy to help ACEN reach its goal of 20 GW of renewables capacity by 2030,” he said.

Francia said ACEN Australia has more than 1 GW capacity in construction, and more than 8 GW capacity in the development pipeline.

ACEN Australia’s pipeline of projects includes the 400 MW Stubbo Solar Farm and associated 200 MW/200 MWh battery energy storage project in NSW, a share in the Rise Renewables 250 MW Baroota pumped hydro and 300 MW Bridle Track solar projects in South Australia, the proposed 600 MW Birriwa solar farm and battery project near Dunedoo in NSW, and the 160 MW Axedale Solar Farm in central Victoria, which may also come to include a battery energy storage system.

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