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Australia turns on large-scale solar plant

Oct. 10, 2012 at 3:18 PM   |   Comments

PERTH, Australia, Oct. 10 (UPI) -- Australia's biggest solar farm was officially connected this week.

The 10-megawatt Greenough River Solar Farm in Western Australia -- a joint project of First Solar, Inc., GE Energy Financial Services and Western Australian state-owned power utility Verve Energy -- is expected to generate enough solar energy to power 3,000 homes, eliminating 20,000 tons of greenhouse gases each year.

The plant, near the port town of Geraldton, consists of 150,000 of First Solar's advanced thin film PV modules solar photovoltaic panels spread over 198 acres.

"The Western Australia community has developed a genuine appetite for renewable energy, and today we are 10 megawatts closer to a cleaner energy future," Western Australia's Minister of Energy Peter Collier said in a release.

Verve Energy and GE Energy Financial Services each own 50 percent of the project. The Western Australia Government provided $20 million in funding.

"As the largest photovoltaic solar plant in operation in Australia, the Greenough River Solar Farm demonstrates that renewable technologies can contribute to meeting Australia's future energy needs on a sustainable, cost-competitive basis," Verve Energy Chief Executive Officer Jason Waters said in a release.

"This is a positive first step in validating the bright future that large-scale solar represents in Australia," he said.

Verve Energy and GE are evaluating the possibility of a plant expansion up to 40 megawatts to satisfy growing demand for renewable energy, Waters said.

Australia aims to generate at least 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

The project represents GE Energy Financial Services' first renewable energy investment in Australia. GE says it's portfolio of committed renewable energy projects worldwide totals more than $8 billion.

Matt O'Connor, managing director at GE Energy Financial Services said the company sees "incredible investment opportunities in Australia," and it looks forward "to applying our expertise to help the country's renewable energy market grow."

Australia has the highest average solar radiation per square meter of any continent in the world, the government says.

About 858,000 homes in Australia have solar PV panels, accounting for a total installed capacity of nearly 2 gigawatts, data from the Australian Clean Energy Regulator indicate. That translates into a rooftop solar installation on one out of every 10 households.

Ray Wills, chief adviser to the Sustainable Energy Association, an industry lobby group, said at the current rate of installations, he expects the 1 millionth home to be achieved by the end of next June, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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