The SMH has reported that First Solar – the leading global provider of comprehensive photovoltaic (PV) solar energy solutions – is currently building the largest solar plants in the southern hemisphere. The project is comprised of two plants located in Nyngan and Broken Hill, New South Wales. First Solar aims to supply its technology to remote mining projects across the state to assist AGL in reducing fuel costs and increasing power generation.
The power generation at Nyngan is set at around 102 megawatts and the Broken Hill plant is at around 53 megawatts. Per year, the projects will produce approximately 360,000 megawatt hours of electricity, which will be enough to meet the needs of over 50,000 average NSW homes.
The total project cost is approximately $450 million. To support AGL’s delivery of the project, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will provide $166.7 million and the NSW Government will provide $64.9 million.
First Solar’s integrated power plant solutions will provide an economically attractive alternative to traditional electricity generation using fossil fuel. From raw material sourcing through expired equipment collection and recycling, First Solar’s renewable energy systems are environmentally sustainable and cost effective.
Over the next three years, the company expects to develop installations capable of providing 200 megawatts in capacity for the mining industry. First Solar’s Sydney-based Vice President of Business Development for the Asia-Pacific, Jack Curtis says: “In an environment where profitability isn’t what it used to be, with the mining industry focused on cost control, the electricity that powers the mines is becoming a bigger line item, and the ability to put a dent in that and hedge against fuel price volatility is something that First Solar offers”.
First Solar is seeking to build similar installations in the mining states of South Australia and Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Nathan Liam, who oversees $127 million in assets and owns First Solar shares as Manager of the AUSEIET says: “The high cost of energy at a facility in the middle of nowhere has always made it interesting to anyone offering an alternative solution”. He adds that “The difference between today, and five to ten years ago, is the reliability, and that the cost of solar has come down. It’s becoming a no-brainer for people in remote locations”.
“This country needs to be looking for replacement industries that can be sustainable,” Curtis advises. “With the natural resources sector paring down, the auto industry grinding to a halt, and manufacturing having a tough time, the country is putting its eggs into the baskets of construction and real estate. The solar industry can actually be one of those sustainable industries.”