27/07/2017 - 15:34

Rule change to boost renewables

27/07/2017 - 15:34

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Renewable energy company WestGen has moved close to proceeding with WA’s second new solar farm this year, after appointing key contractors for its $75 million Byford project.

An artist's impression of the Byford Solar Farm.

Renewable energy company WestGen has moved close to proceeding with Western Australia’s second new solar farm this year, after appointing key contractors for its $75 million Byford project.

A joint venture between WBHO Infrastructure and German company Phoenix Solar has been awarded the engineering, procurement and construction contract.

WestGen director Richard Harris said his company expected to reach financial close next month, with construction scheduled to commence in September and commissioning expected in mid-2018.

Byford will be the state’s largest solar farm, with capacity of 30 megawatts.

It will also be the first utility scale solar farm to be built within a metropolitan area in Australia.

The second solar farm under construction in WA is APA Group’s 20MW Emu Downs project, located near Dandaragan north of Perth.

In addition, there are more than a dozen renewable energy projects at an advanced stage of planning across WA, according to research by Business News.

This includes five solar farms and three wind farms, along with wave and biomass projects with a combined capacity of more than 1,000MW.

The likelihood of some of these projects proceeding has been helped by a major rule change approved last month by Energy Minister Ben Wyatt.

Historically, developers of large-scale power stations have needed to make costly investments in network infrastructure to ensure they will not adversely affect existing generators.

Under an interim access solution approved by the government, new generators will be able to connect to Western Power’s transmission network on a ‘constrained’ access basis.

This is meant to reduce the high cost of connecting to the network, but without affecting the ‘unconstrained’ access of existing generators.

Mr Wyatt has amended the wholesale electricity market rules to enable new generators to be certified for capacity payments.

He was non-committal when asked if WA planned to align with the rest of the country and move to a constrained regime, in which case new generators would be required to make payments if they adversely affected existing generators.

“The state government will engage with industry in determining the longer-term changes to the regulatory framework to appropriately address the barriers to connecting new projects,” Mr Wyatt told Business News.

Projects likely to use the interim access regime include Alinta Energy’s Yandon wind farm (up to 300MW), Synergy’s Warradarge wind farm (250MW), Stellata Energy’s Merredin solar farm (120MW), and Carnegie Clean Energy’s Northam solar farm (10MW).

The Byford project extends WBHO’s track record of working on renewable energy projects and marks Phoenix Solar's first Australian project.

WBHO previously worked on construction of Australia’s largest solar project, the 100MW Nyngan solar farm in NSW, and was also involved in the construction of Synergy’s 10MW Greenough River solar farm.

Synergy is evaluating an expansion of Greenough River to 40MW.

Under the joint venture structure, Phoenix Solar will be responsible for project design, procurement of equipment and electrical contracting, while WHBO will focus on civil works and construction.

WBHO’s western region executive general manager Will Grobler said Byford was an important project.

“Not only will it set a new benchmark for solar projects in WA, but will also provide benefits for the local economy, with opportunities for our workforce, as well as for subcontractors and suppliers,” Mr Grobler said in a statement. 

“We’re proud to be helping provide clean energy for Western Australia, and are looking forward to delivering this landmark project.”

Phoenix Solar senior vice president Asia/Pacific Mark Argar said his company, headquartered in Germany, saw growth opportunities in Australia.

"With this large project, Phoenix Solar is not only reentering the market of ground-mounted utility-scale solar PV power plants in its Asia/Pacific region but we also make a big step onto the Australian market which we see as an emerging solar PV market with multi GW scale annual build out expected in the coming years," he said in a statement.

"We are confident that we shall be able to gain our share of these considerable opportunities and are looking forward to continued growth in the entire region."

The Byford project is underpinned by a 10-year offtake agreement with Kleenheat.

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