The 280MW Cultana solar farm is the first project of SIMEC Energy Australia’s A$1bn dispatchable renewable energy program. Image courtesy of Whyalla City Council.
Developmental approval for the Cultana solar project was granted in May 2019. Image courtesy of SIMEC Energy Australia.
Shanghai Electric is the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for the project. Image courtesy of GFG Alliance.

The Cultana solar farm is a 280MW photovoltaic (PV) solar project being developed in Whyalla, South Australia.

SIMEC Zen Energy Australia, the energy, resources, and infrastructure division of London-based international business group GFG Alliance, is the project developer.

Cultana is the first project under SIMEC ZEN Energy’s A$1bn (A$707m) dispatchable renewable energy program, which aims to produce one‐gigawatt of renewable energy.

Development approval for the solar farm was granted by the South Australian Government in May 2019. Construction of the A$350m ($247m) project is anticipated to begin in 2019, with completion scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2020.

The solar power project is expected to create more than 350 jobs over its 18-month construction period, in addition to ten full-time jobs during operations.

Upon commissioning, the Cultana solar farm will deliver approximately 600 gigawatt hours (GWh) of clean energy a year that will be sufficient to power approximately 96,000 Australian households.

The project is anticipated to offset 492,000 tons (t) of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Cultana solar farm make-up

The Cultana solar farm will be installed with approximately 925,000 Q.PEAK L-G5.2 370W PV solar modules across two connected sites (north and south). Separated by the Lincoln Highway, the two sites will host solar modules measuring approximately 2,000mm×1,000mm×35mm in size.

The north site is expected to generate 210MW, while the south site will generate 70MW.

The solar panels will be mounted to a maximum height of the 4m on single axis tracker structures.

A total of 85 modules will be mounted on each tracker in the north-south direction. The trackers will be 90m-long each and be separated by a 3m-wide access.

The direct current (DC) generated by the modules will be converted into alternating current (AC) by the inverters, while integrated transformers will be used to step-up the voltage of the converted energy.

Infrastructure facilities at Cultana

Located approximately 6km north of the township of Whyalla, the site is spread over an area of roughly 1,000ha. The north site is accessible from Kimberley Road through Inkerman Road and Point Lowly Road, while the south site can be reached from Industry drive through Arthur Glennie drive.

The primary infrastructure of Cultana solar farm includes the operations compound hosting the PV panels and tracker structure. Ancillary infrastructure includes inverters, transformers, underground connection cables, CCTV surveillance, and a 2.4m-high chain-wire mesh security fencing around the property.

Associated support infrastructure includes operations and maintenance building, internal access road, and rainwater harvesting tanks.

The south site will also include a 33kV switching station, while the north site will house a switchyard comprising a 275kV/33kV substation in addition to a switch room.

Transmission of power generated by the Cultana solar farm

The solar power generated by the Cultana solar farm will be evacuated to the grid through the Cultana substation using the existing ElectraNet easements.

The north and south sites will be connected by a 3.8km-long, 33kV overhead interconnection line, while a 6km-long, 275kV overhead transmission line will connect the north site with the Cultana substation.

The electricity generated by the solar farm will power Whyalla Steelworks, which is owned by GFG, and various government and commercial customers. The project development is also expected to support the 10Mtpa Next-Gen steel plant project and the industry revitalisation strategy initiated by GFG.

Contractors involved

SIMEC Energy Australia engaged Golder Associates for the preparation of preliminary studies related to the Cultana solar farm development.

Golder sub-contracted EBS Ecology (EBS) for reviewing the impact of the project on the state-legislated flora and fauna species.

The engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract for the Cultana solar farm was awarded to Shanghai Electric, in June 2019.