Asian investors to pioneer renewables co-location Down Under

Adding panels to wind farms is expected to unlock a new market for medium-scale solar projects, Australia's renewable agency said.

A tandem of Asian investors are set to build a 10MW solar plant next to the existing 165.5MW Gullen Range Wind Farm near Canberra, in a bid to lower project costs and boost efficiency. 

The A$26 million ($19.6 million; €17.7 million) solar project will be carried out by New Gullen Range Wind Farm, a special purpose structure jointly owned by Shenzhen and Hong Kong-listed wind developer Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology and Chinese-based firm Beijing and Jingneng Clean Energy Company. Billed as the first of its kind in Australia, it is scheduled for completion in July 2017. 

Xinjiang Goldwind estimates that the potential co-location savings for the solar farm could be as high as A$6 million, representing a 20 percent drop in total project cost. 

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which is backing the project with A$9.9 million, believes “there is huge potential to adopt this approach at other wind farms”. 

The approach is expected to unlock a new, promising market for medium-scale solar projects. An ARENA-supported study found there is an estimated 1GW of potential opportunities to add solar panels alongside existing wind farms. The agency expects the figure to more than double by 2020, in line with the country’s renewable energy target. 

“Co-location provides more continuous energy generation, as wind farms tend to generate more energy overnight whilst solar only generates during the day,” said Ivor Frischknecht, chief executive of ARENA. 

He also pointed out that developers can save money on grid connection, approvals and site development costs by co-locating wind and solar plants.