The Western Downs Green Power Hub is a 460 megawatt-peak (MWp) solar project being developed in Australia. Expected to be the country’s largest solar farm, the project will produce 1,080GWh of electricity a year, sufficient to power 235,000 homes.
The solar project will deliver clean energy into Powerlink’s transmission network and bring significant economic benefits to the region.
The project will help Queensland in achieving the target of 50% renewable electricity by 2030.
Western Downs Green Power Hub is developing the solar farm in Queensland as trustee for Western Downs Green Power Hub Trust, a wholly owned subsidiary of Western Downs Holdco. Western Downs Holdco is, in turn, owned by Neoen International (100% shareholder), a wholly owned subsidiary of Neoen.
The project will generate 400 jobs in the local area and south-west Queensland region during the construction phase and employ seven to ten permanent staff during operations.
The design works, as part of the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract, already began, along with some of the key procurement items. Engineering works began in June 2020 with construction expected to last more than a year. The project is expected to be completed by the first quarter (Q1) of 2022.
Western Downs Green Power Hub location
The Western Downs Green Power Hub project is being developed on a 1427.7ha site in Hopeland, Queensland, Western Australia.
The site is located near the Kogan Creek Power Station, approximately 22km south-east of the town of Chinchilla.
It will be accessed from the Sixteen Mile Hall Road via Kogan Condamine Road. The Sixteen Mile Hall Road will undergo extensive road upgrades according to the Western Downs Regional Council standards to turn it into a gravelled pavement road.
Western Downs Green Power Hub development details
The project is being developed in three phases, with the first phase involving the selection of site, meeting the landowners, environmental surveys, and feedback from the public. Other steps before the commencement of construction include the selection of contractors, approvals and exhibitions, the arrangement of finance, and preparation for construction. The third phase is the operation stage that will commence upon the completion of the construction stage (second phase).
The solar farm project will also include a 150MW battery storage. The solar farm will have a solar irradiance of 1,968W/m².
It will use 72-cell, bi-facial solar modules with single-axis tracker structures.
The NX Horizon solar tracker technology, capable of producing comparatively more bifacial energy than the typical 1P trackers, will be installed at the solar farm. The installation of the trackers will begin in 2021.
The connection to the grid will include two 300MVA transformers to be installed at a 275/33kV substation and switchyard, which will be a part of the project. The connection assets will use a newly built 275kV, 6km-long overhead line for connecting the project’s substation and switchyard with Powerlink’s existing substation in Western Downs.
Neoen signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) with CleanCo to deliver 352MWp of power, which is equivalent to approximately 80% of the power generated from the project. The offtake deal will contribute more than 30% of the energy needed by CleanCo to meet its goal of generating 1GW of new renewable energy by 2025.
Financing for the solar farm project
Estimated to cost approximately A$600m ($428m), the Western Downs Green Power Hub project reached financial closure in October 2020.
The project is being financed based on the PPA signed with CleanCo. The debt will be provided by seven lenders, namely Natixis, Société Générale, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking, MUFG Bank, NORD/LB, HSBC, and Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Neoen will retain a 100% equity stake in the project.
Neoen Australia, a subsidiary of Neoen, will provide asset and construction management services to the Western Downs Green Power Hub.
In May 2020, an EPC contract was awarded to Sterling & Wilson (S&W) to build the solar photovoltaic facility.
Nextracker will provide its solar tracker technology for the project.