Construction at Moree Solar farm gets underway

Construction of one of Australia’s largest solar PV plants, the 70MW Moree Solar Farm in northern NSW, is officially underway, after a ceremonial turning of sod at the site on Thursday.

The project’s Spain-based developers Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) broke ground on the project on Thursday morning, along with engineering and construction team Green Light Contractors.

After a shaky past few months – including the shock, eleventh-hour withdrawal from the project by Australian partner Pacific Hydro, due to “ongoing political and market uncertainty” – the project, which is a scaled down version of a project from the ill-fated Solar Flagships program, secured financial closure in August.

The $164 million project has been partially funded by two institutions that the Abbott government has tried to close down – the Clean Energy Finance Corporation ($60m) and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency ($100 million).

Despite having been scaled down, Moree Solar Farm will be unique in Australia as the first example of single-axis tracking technology deployed on such a large scale.

The project will use the mechanical tracking devices to move its solar panels with the sun to increase their exposure and power output each day.

Once completed, it will produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of nearly 15,000 NSW homes and abate nearly 95,000 tonnes of carbon pollution each year.

FRV Australian manager, Andrea Fontana, said the company was indebted to those who had contributed to bringing the project to to fruition – an achievement she said would not have been possible without the Renewable Energy Target.

“This target is currently under review, and we are very hopeful that it will be kept substantially unchanged in order not deter the success of this project.”

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht, who attended the occasion on Thursday, said it marked the fruition of many years of dedication and hard work.

“This project is a great example of what can be achieved when a local community, industry and all levels of government work together,” Frischknecht said.

“It stands to advance solar technology and contribute to the energy mix of tomorrow,” he said.

“The knowledge gained through the construction and operation of these power stations will help overcome first-mover disadvantage and allow large scale solar play a greater role in Australia’s electricity markets.”

© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson