Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Australia's largest solar farm opens amid renewable target debate
10 Oct 2012

(Reuters)-Australia switched on its first utility-scale solar farm on Wednesday, bringing the country a small step closer to achieving ambitious renewable energy use targets that traditional coal and gas power producers are now fighting to soften.

The Greenough River solar farm, just outside the small town of Walkaway in Western Australia state, is a joint-venture between Western Australian state-owned Verve Energy and U.S, conglomerate General Electric Co. It is expected to generate 10 MWs, enough to power 3,000 homes.

"The Greenough River solar farm demonstrates that renewable technologies can contribute to meeting Australia's future energy needs on a sustainable, cost-competitive basis", Jason Waters, chief executive of Verve Energy said on Wednesday. Australia has committed to getting 20% of its power from renewables by 2020 but big coal and gas-based utilities are arguing for generation targets to be cut.

The plant is General Electric Co's first investment in Australian renewable energy, and plans are already underway to eventually expand it to 40 MWs. The electricity generated by the plant will be purchased by Western Australia Water Corporation to power a nearby desalination plant.

Australia is one of the world's most ideal places for solar projects. It has the highest average solar radiation per m² of any continent in the world, according to government, and a population the size of New Delhi spread over an area the size of the contiguous United States. Australia currently gets about 10% of its electricity supply from renewable energy, about two-thirds of which comes from hydroelectric power.

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