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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