AGL’s Broken Hill Solar Plant starts generating renewable energy

AGL Energy Limited’s (AGL’s) Broken Hill Solar Plant in western New South Wales has begun generating with the first 26 MW of renewable energy feeding into the National Electricity Market.

The 26 MW represents almost half of the total capacity the plant can produce once it is fully online. All 678,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) modules are expected to be installed over the next few months, with the plant on track to be fully operational by the end of this year.

AGL Executive General Manager Group Operations, Doug Jackson, said this is a major milestone for the 53 MW Broken Hill Solar Plant, which, once completed, will be Australia’s second largest utility-scale solar plant behind its sister 102 MW Nyngan Solar Plant, also in New South Wales.

“We are very pleased to have achieved first generation which requires a lot of testing and coordination from multiple project partners. We have worked closely with the local network services provider, TransGrid, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and project partner First Solar to ensure generation was successful.

“Once fully operational the Broken Hill plant will produce enough renewable energy to power 17,000 homes annually,” Mr Jackson said.

The $150 million Broken Hill Solar Plant is located five kilometres southwest of Broken Hill on the Barrier Highway and covers an area of approximately 140 hectares. It enhances AGL’s credential as Australia’s largest ASX listed owner, operator and developer of renewable energy generation with over 1,900 MW of renewable capacity currently in operation or under development.

NSW Minister for Industry Resources and Energy Anthony Roberts has congratulated AGL on its milestone in generating the first 26 MW of renewable energy from its new Broken Hill plant, saying it reinforced NSW's position as the nation's leader in solar power.

"Together with its facility at Nyngan, AGL has developed the two largest solar farms in the southern hemisphere here in NSW - valuable assets to our State's power industry and a sign of our commitment to grow a clean and diverse energy supply. 

"NSW is leading Australia in supporting the clean energy sector, which contributes to lower energy costs and provides employment and investment particularly in regional communities," Mr Roberts said.

NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman said the NSW Government is proud to support the development and uptake of utility-scale solar power in the state by contributing $64.9 million to the development of the Broken Hill plant and the recently completed solar plant at Nyngan.

“The government has made a commitment to increase renewable energy generation in NSW. The Broken Hill plant is a prime example; helping to produce reliable and affordable clean energy and multiple environmental, economic and social benefits,” Mr Speakman said.

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) CEO Ivor Frischknecht congratulated AGL and First Solar on the first generation achievement and said it was an exciting time for utility-scale solar in Australia. “We are entering a new era of large-scale solar in Australia. AGL’s twin solar farms are already feeding electricity into the grid and are on track to be fully operational this year. The ARENA-supported 56 MW Moree Solar Farm is expected to come on line in 2016 and we anticipate funding at least four new grid-connected projects through our $100 million large-scale solar competitive round, which is now open,” Mr Frischknecht said.

Jack Curtis, First Solar’s Regional Manager for Asia Pacific, said, “We are proud to demonstrate once again that First Solar can execute quality PV projects on budget and on schedule. The Broken Hill Solar Plant is First Solar’s fifth successive Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) project in Australia, making us Australia’s most experienced utility-scale PV EPC contractor.

“The lessons learnt from projects such as the Broken Hill Solar Plant are already translating into substantial cost savings that will ensure utility-scale PV will play an increasingly prominent and disruptive role in the Australian power generation mix.”

AGL is constructing the Broken Hill Solar and the newly completed 102 MW Nyngan Solar Plant with $166.7 million funding support from ARENA and $64.9 million from the NSW Government, and in partnership with First Solar, local councils, and local communities.

About AGL
AGL is one of Australia’s leading integrated energy companies. It is taking action to responsibly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions while providing secure and affordable energy to its customers. Drawing on over 175 years of experience, AGL serves its customers throughout eastern Australia with meeting their energy requirements, including gas, electricity, solar PV and related products and services. AGL has a diverse power generation portfolio including base, peaking and intermediate generation plants, spread across traditional thermal generation as well as renewable sources including hydro, wind, solar, landfill gas and biomass.

 About the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)
ARENA was established by the Australian Government to make renewable energy technologies more affordable and increase the amount of renewable energy used in Australia. ARENA invests in renewable energy projects, supports research and development activities, boosts job creation and industry development, and increases knowledge about renewable energy. ARENA is currently supporting more than 200 projects and is actively seeking new projects to support. Visit www.arena.gov.au

About NSW Government support for renewable energy
The NSW Government supports the development and uptake of renewable energy in the state. The NSW Renewable Energy Action Plan is the main driver for increasing the uptake of renewable energy in the state. The Plan’s three goals and 24 actions support the Government’s commitment to a secure, reliable, affordable and clean energy future for households and businesses in NSW and the national Renewable Energy Target. The NSW Regional Clean Energy Program (RCEP) and the Renewable Energy Advocate work closely with NSW communities and the renewable energy industry to facilitate the development of renewable energy projects, increase renewable energy generation in NSW and help remove barriers and promote investment in renewable energy.

About First Solar, Inc.
First Solar is a leading global provider of comprehensive photovoltaic (PV) solar systems which use its advanced module and system technology. The company’s integrated power plant solutions deliver an economically attractive alternative to fossil-fuel electricity generation today. From raw material sourcing through end-of-life module recycling, First Solar’s renewable energy systems protect and enhance the environment. For more information about First Solar, please visit www.firstsolar.com