By Paul Hemsley
The Western Australian government has opened Australia’s largest operating solar power station to date 50km south-east of the coastal town of Geraldton.
Known as the Greenough River Solar Farm, the $50 million project is designed to generate 10 megawatts (MW) of electricity through 150,000 photovoltaic panels spread across 50 hectares.
The official opening of the WA power plant follows an earlier announcement this week from Silex systems that it had secured $10 million in second stage funding for its $500 million Mildura facility that it hopes will be the largest in the world, eventually cranking out 100MW
In Western Australia the state’s Water Corporation will purchase the power the Greenough River farm produces to help offset the voracious energy requirement of its Southern Seawater Desalination Plant near Binningup.
GE Energy Financial Services and Verve Energy have undertaken the project as a joint venture, contributing $20 million in addition to public funding.
The state government provided $20 million and the federal government have stumped-up $10 million through the Royalties for Regions fund.
Western Australia’ Minister for Energy, Peter Collier said the government had identified the region near Geraldton as one with potential for expansion. He said about 25 suppliers participated in the construction including security, catering and earthworks services.
“The local community would benefit significantly from the construction of the project, and … we could deliver a customer that would provide the demand for the capacity output to underwrite the project,” Mr Collier said.
When solar module manufacturer First Solar was announced as a project collaborator in April this year, its vice president Jack Curtis said the solar farm will help kick off a long-term, sustainable market for utility-scale solar in Australia.
Minister for Regional Development, Brendon Grylls said Verve Energy will evaluate the project’s potential to expand to 40 megawatts of capacity.
“The initial performance of the Greenough River Solar Farm has exceeded expectations,” Mr Grylls said.
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