Massive 600 MW Smoky Creek Solar Farm approved in Central QLD includes option for battery storage

    Australia’s Federal Government has approved a new solar farm in Smoky Creek, Central Queensland.

    This project will see a major solar farm with 600MW capacity constructed, spanning some 2,113 hectares (ha) in size and is expected to generate enough energy to power 200,000 households, while cutting carbon emissions by a million tonnes, each and every year.

    The Government’s Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek wrote that it is projects like the Smoky Creek solar farm that will help us reach renewable energy targets of 82% by 2030, and net zero emissions by 2050.

    After a rigorous development application process, which included the involvement of specialist third parties and pre-lodgment and ongoing community consultation, the solar station was approved to generate 1,194 MWh’s per annum of clean, green power. The station has complied fully with all applicable regulatory approvals and has the support of the Banana Shire Council.

    Often what happens when major renewable projects like this are announced, opponents suggest these solar farms are consuming prime agricultural land, but it turns out that couldn’t be further from the truth.

    As part of the regulatory process, Edify has published an Agricultural Land Assessment report that shows the land is currently being used for Cattle Grazing. It goes on to detail that subsoils are strongly sodic, creating a chemical barrier to effective rooting depth. The soil water storage is less than the criteria for a cropping zone. This means that if you tried growing crops here, they would not succeed, as such, a solar far looks like a great use for the land, so let’s put those rumours to bed.

    To address another concern raised by neighbours, the FAQ document explains mitigations that reduce glare – All tier 1 solar modules are coated with an Anti-Reflective material, which is why solar systems are commonplace across most major airports in Australia.

    Improved manufacturing techniques on Tier 1 panels include Anti-Reflective (AR) coatings on solar panels to increase the amount of energy converted by the panels from sunlight. In addition, by minimising reflective losses from (or trapping more light within) solar panels, their performance can be increased while costs are lowered.

    The land is leased for 30-40 years, while the project is expected to generate power for at least 30 years. While the initial capacity was targeting 450MW, we know that’s now at 600MW.

    Edify details the effective costs of implementing renewable energy compared to traditional energy generation, highlighting that renewables are the cheapest sources of new energy generation in Australia.

    Solar energy projects produce energy at less than $50 per megawatt hour. The costs of other sources of generation are:
    » Existing coal: approximately $40 per megawatt hour
    » New coal: approximately $130 per megawatt hour
    » Combined gas-cycle generation: approximately $75 per megawatt hour

    The Smoky Creek solar farm will generate more than one million megawatt hours per annum of renewable energy – enough to power more than 200,000 households. It will also stop almost one million tonnes of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere each year – that’s equivalent to taking around 310,000 cars off the road every year.

    As well as being an important part of Australia’s transition to renewables, this solar farm will also boost the local economy with approximately 350 locals to be employed during the construction phase and five ongoing full-time positions once the project is operational.

    This project has the option of adding large-scale battery storage. This enables the generator to dispatch electricity on-demand and can remove price spikes by creating a more stable market with reduced costs for consumers.

    Edify has previously used Tesla’s Megapack for grid-scale storage of the energy produced from solar or wind and while this hasn’t been confirmed, it would be a likely bidder to provide storage services on the project.

    The battery component supports the variability of solar generation by smoothing output. The battery component also interfaces with the transmission network via a digital inverter, which enables the project to support the grid’s frequency, in the event of a contingency or disruption to the network.

    Inverters have a response time within 200 – 300 milliseconds, which is incredibly fast and
    accurate when compared to traditional power plants. By integrating both solar and battery facilities into one project, projects achieve a balanced power and frequency and allows the operator to control exactly when energy is sent into the grid to ensure sufficient generation is available when it’s most needed.

    Australia can be a renewable energy superpower, and projects like this help us get there. We have the right conditions, the technology, and the passion to make the most of these opportunities. It will help transform our economy and better protect our environment.

    We know renewable energy is cheaper, cleaner and crucial to helping us cut emissions and reach our goal of net zero by 2050.

    Australians elected a government committed to action on climate change – and that’s what we’re doing. I’m proud to have already doubled the rate of renewable energy approvals, with a record number of projects in the pipeline.

    We’re making clear to industry that the decade of stalling and denial when it comes to the opportunities of renewables is over.

    Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek
    Jason Cartwright
    Jason Cartwright
    Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021

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