The solar power industry in Australia has taken a new leap forward as, after more than 12 months of planning, design, construction and testing, the first large-scale photovoltaic solar project in the country has officially been switched on.
Developed by partners First Solar Inc, Verve Energy and GE Energy Financial Services, the 10-megawatt Greenough River Solar Farm near Geraldton, Western Australia was officially opened on Wednesday by Western Australia Energy Minister Peter Collier.
The project involved the installation of 150,000 solar photovoltaic panels on tables fitted to 15,000 steel posts across an area of 80 hectares.
Energy produced by the farm is being purchased by the Water Corporation to help offset the energy requirement of its Southern Seawater Desalination Plant.
Western Australian Water Minister Peter Collier says the project highlights the importance of renewable energy in the state.
“Today, the community is celebrating Australia’s renewable energy future, and this is only the beginning,” Collier says. “The Western Australia community has developed a genuine appetite for renewable energy, and today we are 10 megawatts closer to a cleaner energy future.”
Jason Waters, chief executive officer of Verve Energy, which along with GE Financial Services will each own 50 percent of the facility, says the new solar farm demonstrates that renewable technologies can contribute to meeting Australia’s future energy needs in a sustainable and cost-competitive manner.
Waters says the partners are now evaluating the possibility of expanding the project from its current 10 megawatt capacity, which they say will generate sufficient energy to power 3,000 homes and displace 20,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year, to up to 40 megawatts.
The project marked GE’s first renewable energy project in Australia.
All told, the project involved around 25 local suppliers in Australia including required security, catering and earthworks services.
Taking just over 12 months, the partners say it was delivered on time and on budget.
Solar energy is expanding rapidly throughout Australia. In 2014, an even bigger solar farm than Greenough River (at its current capacity) with a generating capacity of 20 megawatts is expected to come online in the Australian Capital Territory.