May 08, 2017

Collinsville solar build to start within weeks

Collinsville solar build to start within weeks The solar farm will be built near the old Collinsville coal-fired power station.

Construction of the $100 million Collinsville solar farm could start within weeks after Ratch Australia Corporation announced today it had reached financial close on the 42.5 megawatt (MW) project.

Ratch’s executive general manager, business development Anthony Yeates said the company could break ground on the solar farm before the end of May.

“We have been working on redevelopment options for the site for a long time and it is really exciting to see it all come together,” Mr Yeates said.

“This significant milestone means we can now get on with construction of this project and if all goes to plan it will be generating electricity within roughly 12 months from now.”

Anthony Yeates.

The solar farm will feature about 180,000 solar photovoltaic panels and is near the old Collinsville coal-fired power station, where it can take advantage of existing electrical infrastructure including substations and Ergon Energy’s distribution network.

Mr Yeates confirmed many opportunities would be provided for local workers and suppliers. He said the project would have a peak construction workforce of around 120 and employ two permanent staff once complete. Up to 20 staff will be needed to clean the solar panels as required.

Mr Yeates said financial close was the culmination of a series of milestones including:

  • Signing of the long-term grid connection agreement with Ergon Energy Queensland.
  • Signing of all the financing documents required to raise debt finance for the project. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), a statutory authority established by the Australian Government, is committing $60 million in debt.
  • Signing a funding agreement with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to secure $9.5 million in grant funding.

Financial close follows Alinta Energy’s decision in March to purchase to purchase electricity and Large-scale Generation Certificates (LGCs) generated by the farm through to the end of 2030.

“It is really satisfying to get this project under way after such a long development process. We first started looking at solar power options for the site back in 2010 under the old Solar Flagships program,” Mr Yeates said.

Aerial view of the planned solar array for Ratch’s Collinsville project.

“After considering lots of alternatives, we will be building a large array of solar PV panels that will generate electricity in essentially the exact same manner as the solar panels that are installed on house rooftops. CEFC and ARENA are very focussed on helping projects like ours proceed and we have certainly benefited from their experience with similar projects.”

The project received approval from the Whitsunday Regional Council in 2013 and ARENA has recognised the project as being high merit. The CEFC said the project presented a compelling case for support.

“We are particularly excited about the potential for this project to showcase how old power station sites can be repurposed as new renewable energy bases, benefiting from existing infrastructure, while helping to transform Australia’s energy mix,” CEFC large-scale solar program lead Gloria Chan said.

The project is expected to be operational by June 2018 and produce enough energy to meet the needs of almost 15,000 homes.

Ratch owns and operates several renewable energy projects in Australia and is currently developing the 180 MW Mount Emerald Wind Farm near Mareeba which is due for completion in September next year.

Energy Minister Mark Bailey said Powerlink and Edify Energy had also recently finalised agreements for the Whitsunday and Hamilton Solar Farms near Collinsville to connect to Powerlink’s network via its existing substation at Strathmore.

“Powerlink will build a dedicated 132kV transmission line and substation for the two connections, and will add an additional transformer bay at Strathmore substation,” he said.

“Design works are already under way and construction is expected to commence later this year, with both solar farms to be operational in early 2018.”

Further information about Queensland’s support for large-scale solar is available at https://www.business.qld.gov.au/industry/energy/renewable-energy/solar-150