The largest solar project in the Australian state of New South Wales has officially opened, with ACEN Australia confirming that the first 400 MW stage of its planned 720 MW New England Solar Farm is now progressing through the commissioning process.
The Australian unit of Philippines-based clean energy company AC Energy said it is working through various “hold points” with the 400 MW first stage of the New England Solar Farm. The project forms part of a massive solar and energy storage project under development near Uralla, New South Wales.
ACEN Australia Chief Executive Officer Anton Rohner said the first stage of the solar farm is now progressing through its hold-point testing process. The project was granted formal approval to send power to the grid by the Australian Energy Market Organisation (AEMO) in December. Rohner said the first stage is expected to be generating at full nameplate capacity of 400 MW in the coming months.
“We’re going through the commissioning process as we speak,” he said. “We are approximately 100 MW today and … you’ll see us ramping up to full production over the next four to five months.”
The New England Solar Farm is being developed in two stages. It will eventually include a 720 MW solar installation combined with a 50 MW/50 MWh big battery, which has the scope to be scaled up to 200 MW/400 MWh.
The construction of the first stage of the big battery has already commenced. ACEN expects a financial investment decision to be made on stage two of the solar farm later this year, with construction to begin before the end of 2023. Once the entire 720 MW project is complete, it is anticipated it will produce 1,800 GWh of renewable electricity each year – enough to power more than 250,000 households.
Rohner said ACEN has opted to build the New England Solar Farm on a fully merchant basis, in order to ensure that it is online in time to help replace closing coal-fired power stations in New South Wales.
“We wanted to get things built, to decarbonise Australia,” he said. “I truly believe that the work ACEN Australia is doing to accelerate Australia’s transition to a renewable energy future is here and now – and it starts with New England Solar.”
ACEN Chief Executive Officer Eric Francia said the official opening of the New England Solar Farm establishes Australia as a “stronghold” for the company’s renewables expansion in the region.
“The Australia team continues to harness the country’s outstanding potential for clean energy to help ACEN reach its goal of 20 GW of renewables capacity by 2030,” he said.
Francia said ACEN Australia has more than 1 GW capacity in construction, and more than 8 GW capacity in the development pipeline.
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