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Dignitaries Brave Elements to Mark Historic Australian Solar Inauguration

Posted 6 November 2012 10:00 PM by First Solar

First Solar’s Chief Financial Officer, Mark Widmar, helped to open Australia’s first large-scale photovoltaic solar project last month, joined by the Western Australia Energy Minister, the project owners Verve Energy and GE Energy Financial Services and…millions of tenacious flies.

Although the flies, heat and strong winds tested the fortitude of the 80+ attendees – made up of government representatives, landowners, community members, contractors and media – the significance of the landmark project kept guests’ spirits high.

At 10 megawatts, the Greenough River Solar Farm near Geraldton, Western Australia (WA) is at the relatively small end of the utility-scale solar project spectrum. It will pave the way, however, for future adoption in the country, as local industry looks to the facility as evidence that this type of project can be developed and executed, on time and on budget.

Greenough River Solar Farm

The successful kick-off follows more than a year of planning, design, construction and commissioning. It is expected that the ongoing operation of Australia’s first utility-scale solar farm will encourage participation from the broader power sector and banking community in Australia, which is lagging behind the U.S. in terms of large-scale deployment.

The next few years will drive a much needed familiarity with large-scale solar as an asset class amongst traditional power sector stakeholders. Government programs created to bridge the commercial viability gap in the near-term will be crucial to encouraging the players that will be responsible for developing, funding and owning renewable power plants in the future.

The future is bright for utility-scale solar in Australia and the opening of the Greenough River Solar Farm is a significant step forward for the renewable energy sector.

In fact, with this landmark project now complete, partners Verve Energy and GE Energy Financial Services are now evaluating the possibility of expanding the plant to up to 40 megawatts to satisfy growing demand in WA for renewable energy.

Flies tested the fortitude of the honored guests at the Greenough River Solar Farm inauguration, but they could not swat away the enthusiasm for large-scale solar’s potential in Australia.

About the Greenough River Solar Farm:

The 10-megawatt project is expected to generate enough solar energy to power 3,000 homes and displace 20,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year. The plant's output is being purchased by the WA Water Corporation to help offset the energy requirements of its Southern Seawater Desalination Plant.

WA state-owned power utility, Verve Energy, and GE Energy Financial Services each own 50 percent of the Greenough River Solar Farm, with the WA Government having provided A$20 million in funding, including A$10 million from the WA Royalties for Regions program. No debt was raised to fund the project.