An artist’s impression of the Nyngan solar plant.

31 July 2013 — Federal Minister for Climate Change Mark Butler has confirmed that construction of the largest solar power station in the southern hemisphere will begin in January after AGL and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency reached financial close.

The project will be built across two sites near Broken Hill and Nyngan in New South Wales, cover a combined area four times the size of the Sydney CBD and generate enough electricity to power 50,000 homes.

“Australia has the highest average solar radiation per square metre of any continent in the world and we should take advantage of that natural asset,” Mr Butler said. “This project is 15 times larger than any other solar power station in Australia and represents a big step forward towards making solar a bigger part of Australia’s energy mix.

Minister for Resources and Energy Gary Gray said it was a major milestone for AGL and the government, and would help boost investor confidence in utility-scale solar.

“Reaching financial close and progressing to construction is a major achievement paving the way for future investment and meaning that, in a short time, an additional 50,000 homes across New South Wales will be powered by clean energy each year,” Mr Gray said.

AGL, together with solar developer First Solar, will construct a 102 megawatt solar power plant near Nyngan, NSW and a 53MW plant near Broken Hill, which is expected to generate over 450 local jobs during construction.

Clean Energy Council policy director Russell Marsh welcomed the announcement, saying it was good news for NSW.

“It’s great to see that government is playing its role in supporting the deployment of large-scale solar power, with $166.7 million in funding committed to the project by ARENA and $64.9 million from the NSW Government,” he said.

“As more and more large-scale renewable projects are built, the costs will come down and consumers will see the full benefits.

“New solar PV and wind energy projects are already predicted to be cost-competitive with coal and gas by 2020, and landmark projects like this one by AGL and First Energy will help accelerate that process.”

The Australian Greens also welcomed the news.

“This is not only great news for regional NSW, it is a glimpse of the innovative jobs rich future that comes from a rapid transition to 100 per cent renewable energy,” Australian Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne said. “150 jobs is just the beginning.”

“At last the benefits of putting a price on pollution are being delivered in rural and regional Australia.

“Far from wiping Whyalla off the map, the price on pollution and the complementary measures it supports has delivered the largest solar plant in Australia.”

In the past year carbon pollution in the national electricity market was down seven per cent, while renewable generation was up 25 per cent, said Mr Butler.