Plans to build a major 375MW hybrid wind and solar plant near Port Augusta in South Australia, near to the site of the closed Northern coal power plant, have won approval from the state government.
Project developer DP Energy said in a statement released late on Friday that the government’s green light meant it could now deliver one of the “largest and most significant” hybrid renewables projects in the Southern Hemisphere, including 59 wind turbines and almost 400 hectares of solar PV arrays.
As we reported in December last year, the Ireland-based DP Energy first publicly floated plans to build the integrated Renewable Energy Park in September 2014, on a 5,400 hectare site 8km south-east of Port Augusta – a part of Australia renowned for its rich solar and wind resources.
The project is one of a number being proposed for the area around Port Augusta and in the north of the state – including SolarReserve’s 110MW solar tower and molten salt storage project, Lyon Infrastructure’ solar PV and battery storage project, and even some solar farms being contemplated by Indian energy giant Adani Resources.
Following approval from the government, the challenge for the project now is to win financial backing. But it is confident, and is even considering the addition of storage, either in the form of pumped hydro storage or battery storage.
In May, DP Energy presented its plans to the local community via two consultation sessions, and, according to DP Energy managing director Simon de Pietro, won strong local support for the project.
“Overwhelmingly, the response …has been positive, with many people recognising the benefits that will flow into the local community,” de Pietro said in December.
One of those benefits would be a much-needed boost to employment in the region after Alinta Energy walked away from plans to replace the Northern Power Station.
The $680 million project is expected to create 250 jobs over the course of its development, peaking at around 600 jobs, and winding up with the creation of 15-20 ongoing jobs.
DP Energy says it plans to use local SA businesses wherever possible during the development, to maximise the local economic benefits.
Another benefit of the project will be to the local grid; de Pietro says that by integrating different technologies, the Renewable Energy Park will be able to deliver energy when it is most needed, thereby reducing stress on the electricity network in times of peak demand and reducing the reliance on expensive peaking power.
This is because the wind resource – primarily driven by the temperature difference between the land and sea – tends to have a regular early evening peak, which is well aligned with the daily peak demand for electricity.
This effect is also strongest in the summer when temperature differences are at their greatest, meaning that annual energy generation also peaks when it is most needed.
Coupled with large-scale solar generation, which has a midday peak, it offers a good match to overall demand, while supporting the electricity network and placing downward pressure on wholesale prices.
“The Port Augusta Renewable Energy Park represents a new breed of renewable energy generation which will deliver the right power at the right time for energy consumers, and deliver economic benefit to the region and the State,” said De Pietro in a statement on Friday.