Cohuna solar plant resumes operations after Energy Safe shutdown


Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) had directed Enel Green Power to cease generating power at the Cohuna Solar Farm after initial investigations into the fire raised concerns about specific equipment used at the solar farm.

ESV, the independent safety regulator responsible for the safe generation, supply and use of electricity, gas and pipelines in Victoria, said the operator of the solar farm was on 8 December 2023 directed to disconnect equipment following a three-to-four-hectare grassfire at the 82ha site in November.

Enel told pv magazine ESV had directed it to disconnect some equipment at the site but the plant has since resumed operations.

“Following works in accordance with directions provided by ESV, the Cohuna Solar Farm recommenced generating on 17 December,” Enel said. “The plant is now operating at approximately 75% capacity and is currently ramping up generation to full capacity.”

Enel said it is working closely with ESV to comply with all relevant directions.

ESV Chief Executive Officer Leanne Hughson said early investigations into the fire had sparked concerns about specific equipment used at the solar farm located near Horfield, about 250 kilometres northwest of the state capital Melbourne. The plant comprises about 87,000 bifacial modules mounted on single-axis trackers.

“The operation of modern solar farms is generally safe but on the rare occasion we see a fault with specific equipment we will investigate,” she said.

The ESV said the operator was required to carried out inspections and implement interim safety measures prior to the solar plant, which has been in operations since 2021, being powered up again. The agency said the operator is working to find a permanent solution to help ensure the issue does not happen again, while also working closely with the ESV to comply with the current direction.

The news comes just days after Enel Green Power, owned by Italian utilities giant Enel Group and Japanese oil and gas major Inpex, signed a long-term offtake agreement with the Japanese owned retailer SmartestEnergy for its 93 MW Girgarre solar project in Victoria.

Enel Green Power also has a stake in the Bungala 1 and Bungala 2 solar farms, which deliver a combined 220 MW of generation capacity into the grid in South Australia and is building the 75.6 MW Flat Rocks Wind Farm in Western Australia.

Updated on 22 December 2023 to show that the Cohuna Solar Farm has resumed operations.

Updated on 8 January 2024 to show that ESV is an independent safety regulator; and that direction to disconnect equipment was issued on 8 December 2023, not 2024.

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