AGL Energy Limited's Broken Hill Solar Plant in western New South Wales has begun generating with the first 26MW of renewable energy feeding into the National Electricity Market.
The 26MW represents almost half of the total capacity the plant can produce once it is fully online. All 678,000 solar PV modules are expected to be installed over the next few months, with the plant on track to be fully operational by the end of this year.
AGL Executive General Manager Group Operations, Doug Jackson, said "This is a major milestone for the 53MW Broken Hill Solar Plant, which, once completed, will be Australia's second largest utility-scale solar plant behind its sister 102MW Nyngan Solar Plant, also in New South Wales."
"We are very pleased to have achieved first generation which requires a lot of testing and coordination from multiple project partners. We have worked closely with the local network services provider, TransGrid, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and project partner First Solar to ensure generation was successful.
"Once fully operational the Broken Hill plant will produce enough renewable energy to power 17,000 homes annually," Mr Jackson said.
The $150 million Broken Hill Solar Plant is located five kilometres southwest of Broken Hill on the Barrier Highway and covers an area of approximately 140 hectares.
"Together with its facility at Nyngan, AGL has developed the two largest solar farms in the southern hemisphere here in NSW - valuable assets to our State's power industry and a sign of our commitment to grow a clean and diverse energy supply. NSW is leading Australia in supporting the clean energy sector, which contributes to lower energy costs and provides employment and investment particularly in regional communities," Mr Roberts said.
"The government has made a commitment to increase renewable energy generation in NSW. The Broken Hill plant is a prime example; helping to produce reliable and affordable clean energy and multiple environmental, economic and social benefits," Mr Speakman said.
Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) CEO Ivor Frischknecht congratulated AGL and First Solar on the first generation achievement and said it was an exciting time for utility-scale solar in Australia. "We are entering a new era of large-scale solar in Australia. AGL's twin solar farms are already feeding electricity into the grid and are on track to be fully operational this year. The ARENA-supported 56 MW Moree Solar Farm is expected to come on line in 2016 and we anticipate funding at least four new grid-connected projects through our $100 million large-scale solar competitive round, which is now open," Mr Frischknecht said.
Jack Curtis, First Solar's Regional Manager for Asia Pacific, said, "We are proud to demonstrate once again that First Solar can execute quality PV projects on budget and on schedule. The Broken Hill Solar Plant is First Solar's fifth successive Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) project in Australia, making us Australia's most experienced utility-scale PV EPC contractor. The lessons learnt from projects such as the Broken Hill Solar Plant are already translating into substantial cost savings that will ensure utility-scale PV will play an increasingly prominent and disruptive role in the Australian power generation mix."