Australia's biggest solar energy plant "great news"

6th Sep 2012

Plans for the construction of a huge solar power plant in Canberra have now been unveiled – and one industry commentator has been quick to praise the announcement.

John Grimes (of the newly-named Australian Solar Council) said the 20 megawatts (MW) venture is "great news" for the country's renewable energy industry, with the structure being the biggest of its kind in Australia.

The Canberra Times quoted him as saying: "'The ACT government is leading the way nationally, delivering the largest solar power at the lowest cost anywhere in the country and this is something that governments elsewhere will want to emulate."

It would appear John's recent predictions of solar energy becoming more mainstream are correct, with the industry insider last month claiming that commercial solar and big solar were still areas left to explore in Australia.

A 50-hectare complex, the plant will be located on rural land off the Monaro Highway at Royalla – south of Tuggeranong.

It will be king of the hill in solar terms, with its 20MW output dwarfing a similar project in Perth, which will generate just 10MW in comparison.

The deal to operate the plant was won by Spanish company Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV), which secured the agreement through a reverse auction (lowest bid wins!).

This was despite ActewAGL, an organisation part-owned by the ACT government no less, also being in the running.

Construction is expected to start next year and will be finished by 2014, with around 50 workers being employed to build the complex.

Chief executive of FRV Rafael Benjumea said his firm was perfect for developing the project, as it had already worked on initiatives creating 350MW of generation capacity in the past.

Environment minister Simon Corbell commented that the plant was a commitment to the government's 2008 election pledges.

He added: "We will accrue all the renewable energy certificates from this project, meaning that Canberra will take credit for over half a million tonnes of greenhouse gas abatement during its life."

However, there is a downside to the announcement – for some homeowners at least.

The structure will produce enough energy to power 4,400 homes in the region, at a price of 18.6 cents per kilowatt hour – three times a coal-fired alternative.

But Mr Corbell has tried to allay fears by promising that this will not cost households much more per year – in fact, he said the extra expense would be capped at $13 for each home annually. 

Posted by Mike Peacock

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