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WA to build nation's largest solar farm

1st Sep 2011

Australia will see its very first utility-scale solar power system begin construction this month, with the announcement that the Greenough River Solar Farm is now underway.

The ten megawatt system will be constructed 50 km from Geraldton in Western Australia and is a joint venture between Verve Energy, First Solar and GE Energy Financial Services.

Solar panels will be spread out over an area of 80 hectares, making it ten times larger than any other solar system in the country.

The location has been chosen to reap the benefits of dry conditions with plentiful sunshine, with an expected annual output of 28 gigawatts.

40,000 panels will be position to maximise exposure to the sun and harness a high percentage of direct solar radiation.

Electricity generated by the system will offset the power requirements of the Southern Seawater Desalinisation Plant.

The state's leading supplier of water - the Water Corporation - has committed to purchase 100 per cent of the solar farm's output for the next 15 years.

Jim Brown, president of Utility Systems Business Group for First Solarcomma says: "This announcement demonstrates the significant potential for renewable energy generation - especially utility-scale solar in WA and throughout Australia."

Construction of the project will create around 50 jobs in the region and will contribute immensely to Western Australia's renewable energy infrastructure for the future.

The project is GE Energy Financial Services' first Australian contribution, forming a key part of its pledge to drive economic growth through technology and programs focused on providing environmental solutions to worldwide problems.

Jason Willoughby, GE Energy Financial Services' Australia business leader says: "This project also will support GE's ecomagination program, in our aim to help customers meet their environmental challenges."

According to Verve Energy, the system will displace 25,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

The company says that this is the equivalent of removing 5,000 cars from the country's roads.
Verve's project report reveals the motivation behind the farm, citing solar photovoltaic as a "proven technology with a clear cost reduction path".

It also proposes that the facility has the potential to be expanded to a total capacity of 40 megawatts in the future.

The solar farm will be accompanied by the Mumbida Wind Farm - a 55 MW wind power facility featuring 22 turbines.

Expected completion of the project has been scheduled for the end of 2012.

By Mike Peacock - Solar Correspondent 

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