Australia's first large-scale solar farm that combines wind and solar power, is to be built near Canberra, in a development that promises more reliable and cheaper renewable energy. The solar farm which will run alongside wind turbines is expected to generate about 22,000 Megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity in the first year of operation; enough to supply about 3,000 homes.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is providing $9.9 million support for New Gullen Range Wind Farm Pty Ltd (NGRWF) to develop and construct the $26 million project. Goldwind, a global leader in wind power solutions, will build and operate the project which is due for completion in 2017. ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said solar and wind were complementary sources of renewable energy that produced power at different times of the day and year. According to ARENA, the co-location of the plant is seen as the cheapest way to construct large-scale solar projects and is seen as a key incentive for encouraging future investment.
“Co-location provides more continuous energy generation, as wind farms tend to generate more energy overnight, whilst solar only generates energy during the day. Gullen Wind Farm generates more power in winter and the new solar farm will generate more in summer,” said Mr Frischknecht. NGRWF is jointly owned by Beijing and Jingneng Clean Energy and Goldwind Capital Australia. It is estimated by that the potential co-location savings for the Gullen Range Solar Farm, could be as high as $6 million, representing a 20 per cent drop in total project cost.
A new windfarm near Dundonnell in South West Victoria has also been given the green light by the state government. The $650 million, 96-turbine windfarm is expected to create 300 direct and indirect jobs during construction and will generate up to 1,000 Gigawatt-hours (GWh) of clean energy per year, which is sufficient to power 140,000 homes. The windfarm will save an estimated 700,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year, which is equivalent to the removal of 170,000 cars from the roads. By 2020, windfarm projects are expected to attract $35 billion worth of investment in the region. “There's nothing ugly about windfarms, because there's nothing ugly about jobs,” said Premier Daniel Andrews.
Environmental impacts of solar farms revealed in new study
Large scale solar farms may have consequences for biodiversity, water, soil erosion, air quality and ecosystem energy balances, yet there has been little research effort to quantify impacts, until now. Research undertaken by environmental scientists from the Lancaster University in England have concluded that solar farms can have a significant impact on local climate conditions, reducing temperatures to varying extents depending on the season and time of day.
The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology at the University have monitored a Westmill Solar Park, a large scale solar farm, over a year and discovered that solar installation can achieve reductions in temperatures beneath panels of as much as 5 degrees Centigrade during the summer. The authors of the study say understanding the climate effects of solar parks will give farmers and land managers the knowledge they need to choose which crops to grow and how best to manage the land; there is potential to maximise biodiversity and improve yields.