Experts Speak Out About South Australia's New Plans For The World's Biggest Solar Farm

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Premier Jay Weatherill recently announced that that South Australia's Riverland will be host to the world's biggest battery and solar farm - comprised of 3.4 million panels and 1.1 million batteries. The Lyon Group will be developing the project, which partner David Green described as a "330-megawatt solar generation and 100-megawatt battery storage system [which] will be Australia's biggest solar farm". The development is set to create 270 new jobs.

But what do the experts have to say?

Martin Thomas, Chairman of Dulhunty Power Limited, has had a lifetime career in energy consulting

I must say I am getting concerned by politicians entering the fray on what are major investment decisions which should be thoroughly evaluated by competent qualified people with relevant expertise. Politician's thought bubbles (the SA plan is little more than that) capture the political headlines but achieve little real progress.

That said I have been overwhelmingly disappointed by the apparent economy with the truth surrounding the tentative but eminently sensible (but now alas too late) negotiations to extend the life of Northern PS and to assure Pelican Point of adequate gas supply and capacity tariffs to make continued generation availability, even on standby, a business proposition.

Businesses are not charities although it seems taxpayers are expected to be.

Ian Hore-Lacy, Senior Research Analyst at the World Nuclear Association

This is a fascinating project, but it will inevitably take South Australia further from having reliable low-cost power.

Events in South Australia have shown that reliance on weather-dependent renewables requires dispatchable and synchronous power supply to keep the lights on.

A 100 MW battery system of undeclared capacity (MWh) is not going to be much help in a 3 GWe system even if it turned out to be 400 MWh.

Spending a lot of money on more wind or solar with a low capacity factor will make the provision of reliable dispatchable power less economic, and erode the state’s energy security.

From today, Victoria will be flat out avoiding blackouts itself without being able to subsidise SA’s improvidence, as in the past.

Martin Sevior, Associate Professor of Physics at The University of Melbourne

I presume [the farm] will provide 330 MegaWatts of power and 100 MegaWatt-Hours of storage. Thus the system will provide 330 Megawatts of power for a little over 18 minutes or 100 MegaWatts of power for 1 hour.

Provision of fast acting, high-power systems like this provides resilience against catastrophic events, like the state-wide blackout event last September. The location of the system in the Riverland region of South Australia provides geographical resilience as well.

In general, the provision of cost-effective, grid-scale storage capability is essential as we move to a grid where the majority of energy is provided by wind and solar sources.

This announcement is an important step towards this.

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    Its interesting to look at the three 'experts' comments, then look at their titles.

    Strange how those against the idea work in industries that would suffer if there were widespread adoption of renewable energy generation.

      Headline should read 'Experts with Vested Interests Speak Out About South Australia's New Plans For The World's Biggest Solar Farm'.

        Yep. That's exactly why there's full disclosure about their backgrounds.

          You should perhaps point out that Mr Thomas is, like Mr Hore-Lacy, a strong proponent of nuclear power in Australia:

            You just did! Thanks for the info :)

              Fair point :)
              Good to hear that the info is appreciated, and thanks for providing a few different perspectives on this topic.

                As a big fan of renewable energy (I used to own a solar power company myself) I won't pretend being impartial on topics like this is fun, but it's definitely necessary.

                  All the people opposed to this project appear to be either paid up members of the Fossil Fuels & Nuclear industry or Ideologically driven. They are not arguing based on Science, Facts or Economics.

                  This from our Chief Scientist:
                  "Energy systems are in the midst of change. Where once the perfect grid was seen as centralised and dominated by huge generators – and the Coalition and The Australian might still believe this to be so – the future is entirely different."

                  This from AEMO
                  Audrey Zibelman, the progressive new CEO of the Australian Energy Market Operator, says the future will be “decentralised”, based around local generation, and it will be quicker, smarter, cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable than the current set-up.

                  SA Power Networks
                  SAPN’s prediction that the cost to households and business of solar and storage will be around 15c/kWh within a few years.

                  Sun Metals
                  In Queensland, the push to solar is even more rapid. One major energy user, Sun Metals, is building its own 116MW solar plant because the cost of electricity in a grid almost entirely dependent on coal and gas is too expensive.

                  Denial is the last refuge of the incumbents and their ideologues and those who some how still think that accepting renewables is some how acquiescing to to a left wing agenda.

        End of the day, any issue has bias one way or another. Its not just here, its pretty much anything, and in our ever more connected world thats not going to stop any time soon. People just need to be aware that the bias is there, and to consider what the person behind the statement has to gain or lose.

        Too many people just post something that aligns with their own views, and ignores what the spruikers have to gain from it. In this case, there is clearly a vested interest, easily seen by their title. I wish more stories would make it this clear what the backgrounds of the source are.

        Good work @raejohnston

      The first two experts are strong supporters of nuclear power, which may be clear in the case of Mr Hore-Lacy, but is less obvious from the background provided for Mr Thomas.

    The first guy expects the government to have experts evaluate it and then the government to act on their conclusions. Ha, what a joke (the NBN being a case in point). What he's really saying is that only those rich enough that can lobby the government hard enough should have the final word.

    Australia has heaps of coal and heaps of uranium. Expect us to be pushing those agendas both locally and internationally for decades to come. It's economics, you have something you want to sell you have to spruik it.

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