Watershed moment for big solar in Australia

With more than two million solar panels (2,044,140) now feeding power into the national electricity grid, AGL Energy Limited and First Solar have successfully completed Australia’s two largest solar photovoltaic (PV) plants at Nyngan and Broken Hill with $166.7 million support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

ARENA’s acting CEO Ian Kay today joined AGL Managing Director and CEO Andy Vesey, Federal Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt, NSW Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy Anthony Roberts, Federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton, First Solar’s Asia-Pacific Regional Manager Jack Curtis, Bogan Shire Council Mayor Ray Donald and other community representatives at the Nyngan site to mark the occasion.

ARENA’s Ian Kay congratulated AGL and First Solar on the significant milestone, noting it was the result of hard work and commitment over many years.

“In the future, this historic achievement will mark the moment big solar started to become a major contributor to Australia’s energy supply,” Mr Kay said.

“It comes less than a week after ARENA released the shortlist of 22 projects invited to progress to the next stage of its $100 million large-scale solar PV competitive round.

“This new funding has attracted unprecedented interest from the sector and all levels of government, and is set to double the nation’s large-scale solar generation in two years.”

The 102 MW Nyngan and 53 MW Broken Hill Solar Plants together produce approximately 360,000 MWh of renewable energy annually, enough to power more than 50,000 average Australian homes.

Mr Kay said AGL and First Solar’s trail-blazing efforts at Nyngan and Broken Hill had delivered valuable knowledge about the challenges involved with designing, constructing and commissioning projects of this scale.

“The lessons learned during Nyngan’s construction were immediately applied at Broken Hill, reducing construction times. ARENA looks forward to the next cohort of projects building on this success and knowledge to lower costs and speed up development even further,” Mr Kay said.

“The AGL plants, along with other ARENA-supported large-scale solar projects currently underway and the $100 million funding round, are part of ARENA’s efforts to make large-scale solar in Australia more competitive with other sources of energy generation.

“Ultimately, this momentum will allow us to capitalise on Australia’s world-leading solar resource and speed up the transition to renewable energy for our electricity needs.”

As part of the official proceedings at Nyngan, the Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt presented AGL Managing Director & CEO Andy Vesey with certificates of accreditation from the Clean Energy Regulator.

“Our two plants signal the birth of large-scale solar in Australia and add to AGL’s record of having built approximately $2 billion of renewable generation in the last decade. We are heading toward a carbon constrained future and AGL wants to take a leadership position in making that transition,” AGL’s Andy Vesey said.

Jack Curtis, First Solar’s Regional Manager for Asia Pacific believes Australia is poised to take advantage of low-cost utility-scale solar.

“In many parts of the world, solar energy is already cost-competitive with conventional generation. Considering the substantial and sustained cost reductions in the solar industry and the lessons learnt at projects like Nyngan and Broken Hill, it is inevitable that utility-scale solar projects in Australia will compete on an unsubsidised basis, in the near future,” Mr Curtis said.

“First Solar has successfully established a low-cost local Australian supply chain for key equipment, driving down the cost of delivery of future Australian solar projects. As ageing coal power plants are decommissioned, there is an enormous potential for renewable energy – and utility-scale PV in particular – to fill the void and provide clean and affordable electricity.”

About AGL

AGL is one of Australia’s leading integrated energy companies and is the largest ASX-listed owner, operator and developer of renewable energy generation in the country. Drawing on over 175 years of experience, AGL operates retail and merchant energy businesses, power generation assets and an upstream gas portfolio. AGL has one of Australia’s largest retail energy and dual fuel customer bases. AGL has a diverse power generation portfolio including base, peaking and intermediate generation plants, spread across traditional thermal generation as well as renewable sources including solar, hydro, wind, landfill gas and biomass. AGL is taking action toward creating a sustainable energy future for our investors, communities and customers.

About First Solar, Inc.

First Solar is a leading global provider of comprehensive photovoltaic (PV) solar systems which use its advanced module and system technology. The company’s integrated power plant solutions deliver an economically attractive alternative to fossil-fuel electricity generation today. From raw material sourcing through end-of-life module recycling, First Solar’s renewable energy systems protect and enhance the environment. For more information about First Solar, please visit www.firstsolar.com.

ARENA media contacts

James Webber – 0410 028 899
Judith Ion – 0434 169 037

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Watershed moment for big solar in Australia (PDF 104KB)

More information

Joint media release from The Hon. Greg Hunt MP and Mark Coulton MP, 20 January 2016: Largest solar farms in Southern Hemisphere powering 50,000 Australian homes