Solar Energy Australia: is mid-scale solar the future of renewables?

Time: August 16, 2023

How Australia is maximizing its solar energy resources with mid-scale solar installations?

It’s fair to say that Australia is embracing the potential of mid-scale solar installations with a slew of new and upcoming projects. The partnerships between major companies like Sustainable Energy Infrastructure and Yates Electrical Services Group (YES Group) are leading the charge in this new wave of sustainable energy projects.

One such project that recently came to fruition is the Woods Point solar and battery storage farm, located near Murray Bridge in South Australia. This combined solar and battery project, generating a hearty 5MW, is a testament to the progress made in the mid-scale solar sector.

It features 9,000 bifacial solar panels and a 2.5MWh, two-hour battery storage system. The project stands as a milestone in South Australia’s energy transition, underlining the potential of storage solutions and regional distributed energy assets.

Sydney-based MPower Group Ltd has also built several mid-scale solar projects across Australia. With 5MW solar farms such as Mannum Solar Farm Project, Pirie Solar Farm, SA, and Solar For Samoa already connected to the grid, plans are in place for the development of the Faraday scheme in the state of Victoria.

The project will comprise 11,000 bifacial photovoltaic modules spanning over 100 km (62 miles), and will be situated northwest of Melbourne. Due to be constructed in 2023, the plant will produce more than 11,500 MWh of electricity annually, enough to power 1,500 homes.

Nathan Wise, MPower CEO, said of the project in 2021, “MPower is actively building a pipeline of 5MW solar project sites and currently has exclusivity over six sites. We are looking to create an initial portfolio of up to 20 renewable energy assets with an aggregate capacity of 100MWac and an estimated value of more than $150 million once fully constructed.”

The Woods Point project is just the jewel in the crown of YES Group and Sustainable Energy Infrastructure's impressive portfolio. The partnership boasts approval for 55MW across 11 different assets in New South Wales and South Australia.

There are currently five projects in operation, three under construction, and three more in the design and procurement stage. The companies are focusing their efforts on the sub-5 MW mid-scale sector, offering a faster approval process and avoiding grid connection challenges faced by large-scale projects.

YES Group, with over 120 solar farms under its belt, emphasizes the value of the swift and straightforward development process within the sub-5 MW market. Along with two additional projects in Port Wakefield and Padthaway, the Woods Point project will generate 27 GWh of solar energy and store 3 GWh of energy. An ambitious $200 million investment plan is in the works, aimed at developing between 70 MW and 100 MW of projects across eastern Australia in the coming years.

Meanwhile, in a blend of sport and sustainability, a South Australian racecourse has crossed the finish line as a fully operational DC-coupled solar power and battery farm. Retailer Flow Power brought the Berri Energy Project online, consisting of a 5.8 MW solar farm and a 6.7 MWh battery. Flow Power is expanding from merely retailing green energy to developing its own renewable energy projects, concentrating on the mid-scale solar segment.

The Berri Energy Project uses DC-coupling technology for its efficiency and infrastructural benefits, resulting in leaner, more cost-effective projects. The battery primarily functions as a solar energy shifting device, with Flow Power’s kWatch Controller system automating the management of the system.

This strategy allows developers to sidestep protracted grid connection processes and local government approvals, enabling quicker project realization.

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