The flat rural plains near Nyngan in central-west New South Wales are the perfect setting for Australia's largest solar photovoltaic power plant. There is strong and consistent solar radiation and a significant need for electricity from the regional centre of Dubbo to the east and the mining loads of Cobar to the west.
AGL Energy's Nyngan Solar Plant has the unprecedented capacity of 102 megawatts. The 1.35 million advanced solar panels generate electricity with no emissions, no waste production, no water use, and one of the smallest footprints of any current photovoltaic technology. The plant will produce around 233 000 megawatt hours of electricity annually, enough to meet the needs of approximately 33 000 average New South Wales households each year.
Benefits to the region include around 300 local construction jobs and the injection of millions of dollars on labour, housing, materials and increased general economic activity.
Australia's solar industry will also benefit, with training for local workers and a broad range of participants engaged in the project. Together with AGL's other solar project at Broken Hill, the Nyngan Solar Plant will also assist with supply chain development across the state.
The Nyngan Solar Plant was one of a record number of solar power station accreditation applications received under the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target in 2014, with solar representing three-quarters of all 2014 applications. This reflects the sharp rise in large-scale solar plants accredited under the scheme: from seven in 2012 to 11 in 2013, and jumping to 31 in 2014.
With technology advances in energy storage such as high capacity energy storage batteries and molten salt likely to address intermittency, solar is becoming more economically competitive and catching up with wind as a renewable energy source for large-scale renewable energy power stations.
Other large solar plants in Australia that are either accredited or will be applying for accreditation under the Renewable Energy Target include AGL Energy's Broken Hill plant (53 megawatt capacity), the Royalla Solar Farm in the Australian Capital Territory (20 megawatt capacity) and the Greenough River Solar Farm in Geraldton in Western Australia (10 megawatt capacity).
AGL Energy's solar plants at Nyngan and Broken Hill are supported by $166.7 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and $64.9 million from the New South Wales Government, as well as the financial incentive of large-scale generation certificates under the Renewable Energy Target.
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