This project aimed to increase knowledge in large-scale solar energy through the construction of two solar photovoltaic (PV) power stations in New South Wales. Combined, the projects generate up to 155 megawatts (MW) (AC) of electricity.
Knowledge gained through the construction and operation of large-scale, grid-connected solar power stations will help solar energy to play a bigger role in meeting Australia’s electricity needs.
AGL Energy Limited (AGL)
Broken Hill and Nyngan, New South Wales
AGL Energy Limited (AGL)
Broken Hill and Nyngan, New South Wales
This project aimed to increase knowledge in large-scale solar energy by constructing two solar photovoltaic (PV) power stations in New South Wales, which have a combined electricity generation capacity of up to 155 megawatts (MW) (AC).
AGL engaged First Solar as the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for the project. First Solar built the power stations using its thin film PV technology and will maintain the facilities for an initial five year period post-construction.
Under the Education Investment Fund (EIF) component of the project, the University of Queensland (UQ) built a 3.275MW PV research plant at its Gatton campus to test tracking technologies and performance, energy storage, and operational strategies. UQ also built a data analysis centre at its St Lucia campus to collect and analyse data from the Gatton research plant and the AGL solar power stations.
Also under the Education Investment Fund (EIF) component, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) developed new energy modelling techniques to assist in the design and integration of solar power stations into the electricity grid.
The NSW Government committed $64.9 million to the project.
Reports and guides for large-scale solar projects
To benefit future large-scale solar plant developments in Australia, these reports and guides cover topics ranging from planning, approvals and logistics to procurement, construction and grid connection.
Reports and guides
Guide to local procurement – Nyngan Solar Plant (PDF 663KB) | (DOC 861KB)
The delivery of a utility scale solar project requires supply of equipment and materials from numerous specialty and commodity suppliers. The establishment of an in-country supply chain was deemed the most effective way to support project delivery at the scale of the Nyngan Solar Plant project.
- Attachment A: Press Release: IXL Group Opens Structure Manufacturing Plant in Adelaide to Supply First Solar Australian Projects (PDF 318KB)
- Attachment B: Industry Development and Job Creation in Australia (PDF 2.5MB)
Guide to labour and accommodation – Nyngan Solar Plant (PDF 624KB) | (DOC 3MB)
The construction of utility scale solar project involves a significant amount of skilled and unskilled labour. Site locations in regional areas such as Nyngan are not always able to meet the full labour requirements and non-local labour must be sourced to add to the local workforce.
Guide to engineering design and procurement – Nyngan Solar Plant (PDF 316KB) | (DOC 26KB)
The construction of a utility scale solar project involves taking standard designs and localising them to the local standards and codes, as well to local site requirements. This involves co-ordinating international design teams with local subject matter experts to provide code compliant designs for cost-effective procurement and implementation.
Guide to early works activities – Nyngan Solar Plant (PDF 323KB) | (DOC 27KB)
A number of early works activities were required to enable site mobilisation and facilitate the commencement of construction at the Nyngan Solar Plant site. These activities included upgrades to the site access turnoff and access road, initial earthworks, and construction of a temporary water supply for dust suppression.
Guide to site mobilisation – Nyngan Solar Plant (PDF 368KB) | (DOC 523KB)
The majority of the key learning’s involved in site mobilisation were driven by identifying and engaging regional companies to provide the site mobilisation services. A number of capable and experienced local players were identified in this space, and while none of the companies had solar project experience the site mobilisation process is fairly consistent with non-solar projects and no major issues or gaps were identified.
Guide to access road construction – Nyngan Solar Plant (PDF 352KB) | (DOC 552KB)
Thorough preparation and execution of the access road works is important to ensure timely delivery of the project. Any delays in delivery (i.e. weather) will impact the project delivery schedule as the majority of site works occur after the completion of the access road.
Guide to materials delivery – Nyngan Solar Plant (PDF 788KB) | (DOC 5MB)
Opportunities for cost reduction exist in the optimisation of material delivery specifically through the evaluation of multiple delivery points (Adelaide vs. Sydney) and form of transport (road vs. rail). It is also important to monitor the existing transport networks to maximise regional transport hubs.
Guide to international knowledge transfer – Nyngan Solar Plant (PDF 314KB) | (DOC 26KB)
Australia has minimal experience in the delivery of utility scale solar projects and has the potential to benefit greatly from knowledge transfer from more developed international markets, particularly Europe and North America.
Guide to local supply chain issues – Nyngan Solar Plant (PDF 908KB) | (DOC 4MB)
Local supply chain is non-existent for standard products in foreign markets (e.g. I-Beam posts used in the USA could not be sourced in Australia). For imported products, foreign suppliers are often unfamiliar with Australia Standards and sometimes with export requirements. Imported products increase lead time and shipping costs.
Guide to switchyard construction – Nyngan Solar Plant (PDF 351KB) | (DOC 29KB)
The construction of electrical infrastructure (e.g. substations, switchyards, or overhead lines) assets needs to consider the specific requirements of the Network Service Provider (NSP) as the ultimate owner of these assets. Essential Energy is the NSP for the Nyngan Solar Plant.
Guide to transmission easement – Nyngan Solar Plant (PDF 348KB) | (DOC 28KB)
Construction of a utility scale solar project in regional Australia will typically require the construction of a transmission line in order to connect the solar plant to the grid. Construction and operation of the transmission line will require the creation of an easement in order to provide a registered legal right that applies over the land. This process needs to consider the specific requirements of the Network Services Provider (NSP) Essential Energy for the Nyngan Solar Plant and other landholders.
Guide to gaining regulatory approvals for large-scale solar projects in NSW
AGL developed this step by step guide to provide a general framework which may help reduce the time required to obtain planning consents for future large-scale solar projects in NSW.
Grid connection modelling to define solar plant performance characteristics (PDF 338KB) | (DOC 133KB)
AGL used extensive modelling to determine the requirements of connecting its solar plant to the grid.
Defining communications requirements for a new generator (PDF 370KB) | (DOC 393KB)
AGL found that the cost of communications infrastructure between the generation facility, Network Service Provider and Australian Energy Market Operator should be included in the grid connection process.
Grid connection modelling and inverter characteristics (PDF 296KB) | (DOC 25KB)
AGL shares its learning on the importance of using an appropriate plant invertor in grid connection modelling.
Definition of project scope between multiple contractors (PDF 298KB) | (DOC 25KB)
AGL found that engaging a single engineering, procurement and construction contractor on a project can reduce risks.
Impact of temperature on plant performance and overhead line design (PDF 298KB) | (DOC 25KB)
AGL found that savings can be made in the design of overhead transmission lines.
Review of connection feasibility on the UQ Gatton 3.3 MW photovoltaic array (PDF 301KB) | (DOC 26KB)
The University of Queensland found that the proposed Gatton photovoltaic array can be connected to that grid at 11 kV, rather than 33 kV, reducing costs without significant impacts to the network.
Watch: Nyngan Solar plant gets its last panel installed
This project helped the large-scale solar industry develop in Australia, encouraged economic and industry development at two locations in regional New South Wales, provided academic research infrastructure, and developed Australian intellectual property in solar power generation.
AGL estimated over 450 construction jobs were created at the two project locations, with more local jobs created to support the construction workforces. Approximately five permanent local jobs were also created to support ongoing plant operations at each site.
Importantly, the AGL project promoted industry development by transferring skills and experience to the local labour markets, as well as helping to develop a supply chain that benefits the entire solar industry. These developments helped drive down the cost of the next generation of large-scale solar projects.
- AGL Knowledge Sharing Report 6 (PDF 263KB)
- AGL – Broken Hill Solar Plant project details
- AGL Nyngan Solar Plant project details
- Video footage – Broken Hill Solar Plant – final panel installation event, 12 October 2015
- News – 17 September 2015: Broken Hill solar plant feeds renewable energy into the grid for the first time
- News – 23 March 2015: Australia’s largest solar plant fires up
- 20 January 2016: Watershed moment for big solar in Australia
- 12 October 2015: Another giant step for large-scale solar at Broken Hill
- 8 September 2015: Three months on and Nyngan is flying
- 5 May 2015: Solar plant taking shape at iconic Broken Hill
- 17 April 2015: Final panel installed in Southern Hemisphere’s largest solar PV plant
- 30 July 2014: First panels installed at Australia’s biggest solar plant
- 29 January 2014: Construction begins on Australia’s largest solar power station
- 31 July 2013: Large-scale solar builds in Australia
- 31 July 2013: Solar Power Project 4x the Size of Sydney to go Ahead