Observations shared by Solcast, a solar specialist, have shed new light on the impressive performance of Australian solar farms.
Large-scale solar farms in New South Wales flooded the utility-scale PV generation rankings in March, with international consultancy Rystad Energy noting that seven of Australia’s top 10 best-performing assets are all located in the eastern Australian state.
Rystad Energy Senior Renewables Analyst David Dixon said SUN Energy’s 100 MW Merredin Solar Farm in Western Australia topped the rankings with an average capacity factor of 34.6% for the month. However, facilities in New South Wales had dominated the charts, generating a combined 518 GWh over the course of the month.
Canadian clean energy investor Amp Energy’s 120 MW Hillston Solar Farm in the Riverina region of southwest New South Wales was second in the generation performance rankings, with a capacity factor of 34% across March. French renewable-energy developer Neoen’s 36 MW Giffith Solar Farm, also in the Riverina region, was third with a 30.9% capacity factor.
Sydney-based solar data specialist Solcast, which uses weather data and modelling tools to optimise solar PV systems, said the performance ratings coincided with the demise of the La Nina weather pattern, which typically brings increased cloud cover and rain to Australia.
Jack said the southern parts of Western Australia also saw higher solar irradiance due to less high cloud than usual. Solcast Lead Modeller Harry Jack said the end of the La Nina event meant that most of Australia saw an increase in solar irradiance, compared to long-term averages.
“Summer monsoon activity was reduced in general and focused primarily over the Gulf of Carpentaria and inland Queensland during March, so this region saw the biggest drop from its usual average irradiance,” he said. “The remainder of northern Australia was left with less cloud and therefore higher irradiance than normal, following the end of the La Nina event. In particular, the east coast of Queensland saw irradiance up to 20% above average.”
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