With Moree Solar Farm’s future secured, ‘great opportunities’ await NSW large-scale solar

Moree Solar Farm, the ground-breaking 56MW PV tracking plant slated for development in the NSW farming district, is set to begin construction within months after finally securing financial closure this week.

The milestone was revealed by NSW Environment Minister Rob Stokes, in an interview with ABC TV, in a discussion about his vision to turn NSW into the “California” of Australia.

“I’m delighted that just yesterday, the Moree Solar Farm … reached financial close,” he told the NSW 7.30 Report. “There are great opportunities for large scale solar.”

The original winner of the federal government’s ill-fated Solar Flagships program, the scaled down version of the Moree Solar Farm will be the first in Australia to include single-axis PV  tracking – allowing the modules to track the sun – on such a large scale.

The Moree project may also break new ground by becoming the first in Australia to be built on a “merchant” basis – meaning that it will sell its output into the National Electricity Market, rather than rely on a contract with a major retailer.

The project will be partially funded by two institutions that the Australian government has tried to close down – the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

The CEFC announced last August that it would provide lending of up to $60 million to the project developers, Spanish group FRV and Australia’s Pacific Hydro.

Because it is deploying single axis tracking for the first time, it is also believed to have secured an unspecified grant from ARENA. This grant, while approved by the ARENA board, was subject to the developers getting financial closure. That was its biggest hurdle, and it has taken nearly a year to secure it.

Moree will be the sixth large scale solar project to be built in NSW within an 18-month period. AGL Energy, which won the federal Solar Flagship funding after the failure of the initial Moree proposal, is now building a 102MW solar plant at Nyngan and a 53MW solar plant at Broken Hill.

Three smaller plants are being built within the ACT as part of the territory’s solar auction program and its bid to source 90 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2020.

FRV is soon to open the first and largest of those facilities, the 20MW Royalla Solar Farm, while two others – a 13MW and a 7MW – are undergoing planning approval.

Top image: Royalla solar farm, under construction

© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson