Western Downs Green Power Hub is a 460MW solar farm project currently under construction in Australia.
The project, located in the Western Downs region of Queensland, is being developed by French renewable energy producer Neoen.
The solar project lies close to Queensland/ New South Wales interconnector and will provide energy to the national electricity network offering clean energy for the people of Queensland.
Once complete, Western Downs will become the largest solar farm in Australia. The project will also include a battery with an energy storage capacity of up to 200MW.
The solar farm is expected to become operational in 2023, while the battery will begin operations in 2024.
The Western Downs Green Power Hub will produce more than 1,080GWh of electricity per year, helping to offset around 864,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
In August 2022, the project achieved a major milestone by becoming capable of supplying more than 100MW of clean energy to the country’s electricity grid.
The electricity produced by the Western Downs farm will be enough to power around 235,000 homes.
Location and site details
Western Downs Green Power Hub is located 22km southeast of Chinchilla in the Western Downs region of Queensland. The location is around 300km northeast of Brisbane.
The site is spread over an area of 1,500 hectares in Barunggam country ranging across two rural freehold properties.
The site was selected due to its flat surface and proximity to Powerlink’s existing Western Downs substation which will enable rapid transfer of renewable energy to the grid.
Western Downs Green Power Hub Project financing
The Western Downs Green Power Hub project is expected to involve an investment of around A$600m ($402.6m).
Neoen reached financial close on Western Downs Green Power Hub in October 2020.
Seven lenders, namely Natixis, Société Générale, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking, MUFG Bank, NORD/LB, HSBC, and Commonwealth Bank of Australia, agreed to provide debt financing.
The solar farm is expected to deliver an economic benefit of around A$32m annually for the Queensland economy.
Western Downs solar farm is currently in the final stages of development. The project is being built in three phases.
The first stage included site selection, meeting traditional and local landowners, environmental surveys, public feedback and government approval.
The second stage involved the selection of contractors, arranging the finance and preparing for the construction and building the project. During this phase, the project was also connected to the grid.
The third stage is the operations and maintenance phase which will also include environmental monitoring and land management.
Western Downs solar farm is expected to remain operational for more than 25 years.
Neoen is using 72-cell bi-facial solar modules for the project. The panels are established on systems that will track the sun through the sky.
The project was connected to the grid using two transformers of 300MVA power which are installed at a 275/33kV substation and a switchyard.
The critical infrastructure including two 300MVA high voltage transformers, 2x main switchrooms and control room were delivered and installed at the site in May 2022.
As part of the work, more than 90km of medium voltage (33kV) AC trenches were laid with a cable across the site.
The Western Downs Battery, which will be located adjacent to the solar farm’s substation to ensure maximum voltage efficiency, received planning approval in 2021.
The construction of the battery system is expected to commence before the end of 2022 and will be completed in 12 months.
It will store up to 400MWh of energy with up to two hours of power in reserve. This will be used in times of high demand and during emergencies.
Neoen will use lithium-Ion batteries that have a 20-year lifespan.
It is expected that the battery project will generate 150 direct jobs on-site during the construction stage and six direct on-site jobs during the operational stage which is 20 years.
Agreements and contractors involved
The Economic Impact Assessment for the Western Downs Green Power Hub was done by Aurecon.
Sterling and Wilson Silver secured the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract for the project.
In 2020, Neoen signed a 352MWp Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with energy services company CleanCo Queensland. The renewable supplies from the project will help CleanCo to achieve its target of 1GW of new renewable generation by 2025.
Queensland Government-owned electricity transmission system operator Powerlink completed connection works for the project that included adding around 6km of the new transmission line.