October 10, 2012
Groundbreaking Australian Solar Panel Farm Goes Live
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The Greenough River Solar project, the first utility-scale solar farm in Australia, went online on Wednesday.
The project lies just outside the small town of Walkaway in Western Australia, and is a joint venture between Verve Energy and U.S. conglomerate General Electric.
"The Greenough River Solar Farm demonstrates that renewable technologies can contribute to meeting Australia's future energy needs on a sustainable, cost-competitive basis," said Jason Waters, chief executive of Verve Energy.
Australia gets about 10 percent of its electricity supply from renewable energy, two-thirds of which comes from hydro power.
The Greenough River Solar Farm takes advantage of what some consider to be one of the world's most ideal places for solar projects. The country has the highest average solar radiation per square meter of any continent in the world.
The 10-megawatt farm uses panels from First Solar Inc. and will produce enough energy to power the equivalent of 3,000 homes, according to a statement from the companies behind the project.
Waters said that the partners are evaluating the possibility of expanding the planet's capacity to as much as 40 megawatts to meet increasing demand of renewable energy.
The $50-million project could help curb greenhouse gas emissions by as many as 22,000 tons of a year, and will provide energy to the Southern Seawater Desalination Planet.
"As the largest photovoltaic solar plant in operation in Australia, the Greenough River Solar Farm demonstrates that renewable technologies can contribute to meeting Australia's future energy needs on a sustainable, cost-competitive basis," Waters said in the statement.
According to the Australian Clean Energy Regulator (ACER), more than 858,000 homes in Australia are equipped with solar photovoltaic panels, and more than 600,000 have solar thermal panels.
The Sustainable Energy Association of Australia (SEA) said one million homes in Australia could have solar technology installed by the end of June 2013 if rates continue as they are.
The renewable energy targets (RET) are undergoing a review in Australia, and officials believe that if there were a cut in the targets, it could put a dent in growing businesses and up-and-coming industries.
Currently, Australia has set a target of producing 41,000 gigawatt-hours of its energy requirement by 2020.
One of Australia's largest energy retailer and investor in renewables, Origin Energy, said the RET target should be re-evaluated.
According to a Reuters report, the Australian Coal Association has argued that the RET should be abolished because it unfairly picks winners in the electricity market.