The construction timeframe depends on the project size and the number of workers deployed on site. For a 50 MW power plant, an 8 to 12-month timeframe is typical, with a peak construction period of 2 to 3 months. A 400MW solar farm, Western Downs Green Power Hub is projected to take up to 18 months during construction.
Neoen uses similar technology to that used in residential solar photovoltaic installations with the main difference being that panels are usually mounted on systems that track the sun through the sky. Western Downs Green Power Hub will use premium quality solar panels and other technologies provided by leading manufacturers, selected through a competitive process.
All components come with long warranty periods; solar panels and inverters are generally warrantied for 20 to 25 years.
A solar farm will typically operate for between 25 and 30 years. Depending on the local environment, the panels can generate electricity for 30 years or more with only about 0.5% efficiency loss each year.
When photon of light shine on a solar panel they knock electrons free on an electrical circuit and product electricity. Inverters regulate the accumulation of electricity from a selection of solar panels and at the substation the electricity is distributed to the grid. The angle at which the light hits the panel relates to the amount of energy that can be harvested from it, which is why tracking systems help to optimise solar generation.
Most solar panels are 1m x 2m in size. Arrays of solar panels are usually 30, 60 or 90 m long. Rows of panels are separated by 5 to 7m. However, this can vary from project to project.
The top of the panels will be about 4 metres from the ground.
We will use Lithium-Ion batteries, which usually have a 20 year lifespan. They retain most of their capacity right up to this point and are often capable of operating beyond this time depending on market conditions and other factors.
The Western Downs Battery will store energy in times of high production and release energy in times of high demand, similar to how a battery on a home solar system works. It will also help to stabilise the grid in a few different ways – it has an emergency response mode to prevent blackouts and it can maintain voltage and frequency levels.
- Existing coal: approximately $40 per megawatt hour
- Combined gas-cycle: approximately $75 per megawatt hour
- New coal: approximately $130 per megawatt hour
Solar energy forms just one part of the Australian Energy Market Operators (AEMO) move towards renewable energy. Solar farms add to the supply side of the electricity supply-demand equation, which puts downward pressure on all electricity bills.
Neoen does not require government subsidies to finance its projects. We finance our projects through a combination of our own equity and long-term bank loans. However, we sometimes enter into agreements with governments or businesses to sell the power produced by our projects.
All Neoen projects meet strict State and Federal Government regulations and are assessed under these regulations.
We work closely with governments to ensure we meet all legal requirements and exceed these requirements wherever possible.
Health & Culture
Solar panels are deployed on more than 25% of Australian homes and have been deployed for the past 10 to 15 years on people’s homes in the world.
No health issues have been associated with solar panels and the Western Downs Green Power Hub would use the same type of technology. High voltage infrastructure would remain along the existing transmission line and would not increase health risks.
Solar farms create no noise during operations.
Monitoring of dust levels during construction is a basic requirement of each project. Dust generating activities are assessed during windy conditions and are stopped and rescheduled where adequate control of dust generation cannot be achieved.
Visual observation of machinery is undertaken during site inspections in addition to daily pre-start checks which ensure all machinery has appropriate emission control devices, is in good working order and is maintained correctly.
SAFETY & ENVIRONMENT
Neoen engages specialist consultants to undertake detailed flora and fauna surveys to determine the ecological attributes of the land.
On all of our projects, we aim to minimise the impact on flora and fauna by designing projects to be constructed outside areas of high conservation significance and adopting control measures during the construction process.
Other mitigation measures include preparing management plans, identifying ‘no-go zones’ within the project site and conducting pre-clearance surveys. Neoen also consults with government departments of environment and biodiversity throughout the development, construction and operational stages of projects, as well as local non-government organisations.
Sheep take a couple of days to get used to the site, and then are very comfortable with them – they use the shade from the solar arrays during summer.