Environment

‘No limits’: Victoria’s biggest solar farm paves way for more

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Victoria's largest solar farm has reached full-capacity, with its French owner Neoen declaring the plant to be operating "slightly above" expectations as it eyes 3 gigawatts of new renewable developments in Australia.

The $198-million Numurkah solar farm in the state's north took just a year to build and employed about 300 people in the construction phase.

The plant's 128 megawatt-capacity includes 373,839 photovoltaic panels spread over 515 hectares, and it will partly power Melbourne's tram network.

Victoria's biggest solar farm, Neoen's Numurkah plant, brings 128 megawatts of capacity to the grid, and was constructed in just a year.

Victoria's biggest solar farm, Neoen's Numurkah plant, brings 128 megawatts of capacity to the grid, and was constructed in just a year.Credit:Neoen

Louis de Sambucy, who took over as managing director of Neoen Australia this month, said technology costs were continuing to fall, making Australia increasingly attractive as an investment location because of its "incredible" wind and solar resources.

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"We don't see the limits – things are continuously improving, delivering better and better results," Mr de Sambucy told The Age.

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"We are at the very beginning of the energy transition.

"We look at projects where we can be 20 per cent up to 40 per cent lower than the current [wholesale electricity] price."

Energy minister, Lily D'Ambrosio, who was expected to attend Friday's formal opening of the plant, said the project would supply about 255,000 megawatt-hours to the grid each year.

"The Numurkah solar farm will play an important role in supporting the transformation of our energy system towards clean, renewable energy and reaching our renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2030," she said.

The avoided greenhouse gas emissions from the solar farm amount to the equivalent of taking 75,000 cars off the road or planting 390,000 trees.

Support for the plant included a 38 megawatt green certificate purchase agreement from the government, and $56 million in loans from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Also underpinning the project was a 15-year power purchase agreement with SIMEC ZEN Energy to supply electricity to the Laverton Steelworks in Melbourne's west, which helped to almost quadruple the original size of the plant.

Neoen's Numurkah solar farm will partly power a steel works and Melbourne's tram network.

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