Biggest solar project in southern hemisphere given go-ahead in Australia

AGL Energy, the Australian Federal Government and New South Wales government are partners in the project


A solar panel farm that will occupy an area four times the size of Sydney has been given the go-ahead. AGL Energy has been granted funding by the Australian government worth $235m to develop two sites in New South Wales. The two sites are one of the biggest photovoltaic (PV) projects in the world, and one of the sites will be the largest solar power project in the southern hemisphere.

AGL says the two solar farms, at Nyngan and Broken Hills, will cost around $450bn. The federal government has pledged close to $166.7m through its Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). The New South Wales government has also confirmed it will be contributing $64.9m towards the project in the form of grants. AGL is funding the remaining $200m for the project, thought the Education Investment fund will provide an additional $40.7m in federal funding.

“Solar PV in Australia has come a long way from being a small-scale industry in a relatively short time frame,” said Michael Fraser, AGL Managing Director in statement. “The Nyngan and Broken Hill solar plants will be the nation’s largest solar projects with the Nyngan plant also being the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.”

According to the Australian Solar Council (ASC), the project is a first for local investors who are now more receptive of large scale solar initiatives, such as this one. “This is an important milestone for big solar in Australia,” said ASC chief executive John Grimes.

The Nyngan plant is a 102 megawatt facility that will be capable of producing enough electricity to power 50,000 homes as early as mid-2015. Broken hill will be a more modest 53 megawatt facility, expected to be in commission by November 2015. “On an annual basis, the projects will produce approximately 360,000 megawatt hours of electricity, which will be sufficient to meet the needs of over 50,000 average NSW homes,” according to a statement by AGL.

AGL has stressed the governmental cooperation and support is vital for the success of the project, as they rely on AREAN and the New South Wales government to finance the project, but also to engage with the local community.

Work on the projects is expected to break ground in January 2014. “We expect these projects to create approximately 150 construction jobs in Broken Hill and approximately 300 in Nyngan. This will provide significant financial flow on benefits to both communities. The projects are expected to add nearly two percent to the gross regional product of each regional economy,” said Fraser.