Construction to begin on largest solar park in Victoria

The 110MWDC Bannerton Solar Park in Victoria will soon begin construction after receiving $98 million in debt finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).

The project, located at Almas Almonds in Victoria’s Sunraysia district, is being developed by a joint venture between Foresight Group and Syncline Energy.

UGL has been awarded the $133 million, three-year contract to engineer, design and construct stage one of the project, to be built on almond orchard land that isn’t suitable for planting.

“UGL has strong expertise in the renewable energy sector, with nine current and past solar projects around Australia,” UGL managing director Jason Spears said.

“We are pleased to have this opportunity to contribute to the further expansion of the renewable energy market.”

The 320,000-panel plant is expected to generate enough power to supply around 30,000 homes with solar energy, and a significant proportion of its projected output has been contracted in separate agreements with Alinta Energy and the state government.

The Bannerton project will see the construction of new powerlines to connect the solar farm to the grid.

The project’s inverters, which convert the solar DC electricity to AC electricity for export to the network, will also help provide voltage support on the grid, so the project meets AEMO’s continuous uninterrupted operations requirements in the event of grid faults.

CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said the CEFC had invested as the sole debt financier to accelerate the project which, due to the rapidly falling cost of constructing solar in Australia, is being developed without any grant support.

“Previously it wasn’t viable to construct solar of this scale in Victoria, which has good insolation rates, but not as high as the northern states,” Mr Learmonth said.

“We have witnessed rapidly improving economic conditions that now make this project commercially viable without the need for grant funding.

“What’s more, through the recent agreement struck with the Victorian government, Bannerton Solar Park will effectively help power Melbourne’s iconic tram network, reducing the city’s public transport emissions, making an important contribution to decarbonisation of the economy.”

The project is expected to be generating power to the grid from July 2018.