Australia to get Southern Hemisphere's largest solar PV plant


July 31, 2013

The Nyngan solar PV plant will be the largest in the Southern Hemisphere

The Nyngan solar PV plant will be the largest in the Southern Hemisphere

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With plenty of sun-drenched, wide open spaces, Australia is an obvious place for large-scale solar power plants. It would seem that large reserves of coal, oil and natural gas, have on the other hand made it difficult for the country to wean itself off fossil fuels. But renewable energy is getting a boost down-under with the announcement of two solar projects, one of which will be the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) plant in the Southern Hemisphere.

The projects include a 53 MW solar plant at Broken Hill and a 102 MW plant at Nyngan, both located in the state of New South Wales (NSW). The Broken Hill plant will cover an area of 200 hectares (494 acres) with 125 ha (309 acres) of that devoted to the solar field, while the Nyngan plant will cover an area of 460 ha (1,137 acres) with a solar field of 250 ha (618 acres).

Both pale in comparison to the Agua Caliente Solar Project currently being built in Arizona that is expected to boast an installed capacity of 397 MW upon its completion in 2014. However, the Nyngan plant will be the largest solar PV plant in Australia and the largest in the Southern Hemisphere when completed.

The Nyngan and Broken Hill plants will produce around 360,000 MW/h of electricity annually, which is sufficient to meet the needs of over 50,000 average NSW homes claims AGL Energy, which secured funding agreements with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the New South Wales Government to allow it to move ahead with the projects.

Construction will be handled by First Solar, whose thin-film PV modules will be used for both plants. ARENA and the NSW Government will provide AU$166.7 million (US$149 million) and AU$64.9 million (US$58 million), respectively, towards the projects’ total estimated cost of AU$450 million (US$403 million).

The Nyngan project is due to get underway in January 2014 for a mid-2015 completion date, with construction of the Broken Hill plant is set to begin in July 2014 start date for a November 2015 finish.

Source: AGL

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Let me save you the suspense, Solar is not perfect. But it will not harm the environment which contrary to some IS valuable.

John Ballard

All of the start-up funding is from governments? Yes, and it's a sure sign that it's a poor investment. Thanks for pointing out that Australia has plenty of (cheaper) fossil fuel energy sources. I pity the taxpayers there who have cast hundreds of millions into this money pit. (Perhaps, it'll pay off in the "long run", after it's obsolete.)


Good for them, solar seems to me as the less evasive way to harness power without effecting the climate. I wounder if these produce anything under full moonlight ?

Jay Finke

@ John - you've got 680 hectares now covered with PA. That doesn't impact the environment? Sure, it's desert, but things still live in the desert. You've got a lot of rare-earth metals in those PA, that impacted the environment; you've to copper/aluminum infrastructure as well as cabling the long distance to consumers, both of which take quite an environmental impact to create.

Solar, as a concept, will not harm the environment (supposedly - the UV from the sun actually does quite a lot of "natural" damage) but a PV installation of this size does most definitely leave an impact on the environment.


Solar thermal systems can at least be designed that they can use an alternate energy source at night or during dust storms.


Aren't there roads in Australia? Don't destroy virgin desert and provide shade for vehicles during the hottest part of the day.


How bout some for Brazil, Peru, Morocco, Turkey, India, So Africa,

Stephen Russell

Cool's about time we took a bigger chunk of this pie.

Rick Fishbourne

The concept is good the intention is good but what an environmental disaster.

PV's are far better suited on wasted roof spaces, commercial buildings, logistics depots, railyards, halls, shopping malls and homes that have acres of tin, tiles etc, doing nothing, plus the added advantage that it is at the user's source not hundreds of k's from nowhere.

Newer technologies incorporating hotwater systems can have a far greater impact than a PV farm in the middle of beyond.

Granted a lot of people think that a desert is dead, most haven't seen what happens when rain falls on it. Building something this large does have a monumental impact on the ecological diversification of a desert.

And realistically if they build something this large it would need to be fenced in and the ground poisoned on a regular basis to stop plants taking root and animals burrowing, roosting and living under and on the structures, so animal lovers may find it not too their liking that's for sure.

Great idea but far better suited within grid connect area's that have abundant roof space to take advantage of and utilise the heat load as well.

A technology that lays waste to hundreds and hundreds of acres is well "not realistically well thought out at all" and if it has, the full extent or it's ramifiacations are not disclosed and will eventually turn into a Pandora's box.

John S

Hmmm. You have done some research Socalboomer. Good. Can you do similar assessment for me on the materials required for a coal fired electricity plant. Ignore for now carbon emissions, but look up radium and ash emissions from those plants as well. Just 12 months worth will do. Then make a comparison with the terrible environmental impact of a solar plant.

Ian McIntosh

ten bucks a litre, anyone?


Believe me nothing is being destroyed. I've lived in Nyngan and I know Broken Hill well . There are areas in both localities that consist of nothing except sand and rock. Of course there will always be some sort of intrinsical impact depending on what value you put on lifeless minerals but aside from that the impact is minimal.

Terence Munro

This is a very interesting idea. The damage that current power systems do to our environment needs to be ameliorated and soon. But the very low cost and huge capacity to deliver with coal and gas makes cheap power hard to compete with. The fact that two levels of government are getting behind this in a country with the worlds highest per capita carbon use is a sign that we can do something to compete. It is not an idea without some future environmental impacts, rare earths, loss of land for environmental uses and so on. But it is a tiny area in a huge outback while existing coal technology uses massive areas in productive agricultural areas and then pollutes the air of some of our most useful wine and other agricultural and environmentally fragile lands. Lets recognise this as an important addition to our technological advancement.

Viv Straw

AGW right/wrong doesn't matter for this discussion on coal.

The problem with coal is that it is loaded with industrially useful but toxic chemicals. Scrubbing the smoke is energy intensive (About 20% of the generating capacity of out local power plant goes to the scrubbers.) and leaves a lot to be desired in effectiveness. However if you build a properly designed coal gasification plant you can not only produce syn gas and thus all the daughter chemicals including very clean motor fuel, you can fractionally distill out and capture for use the toxic chemicals industrial and otherwise such as mercury and radium. The radioactive materials that can be used for industrial or power generation should be. (Nuclear energy should be handled by two types of people: Those that have a rationally high fear of the results of mishandling it and obsessive/compulsives that will do the job right every time because not doing so and cutting corners makes them miserable. ('Adrian Monk' the nuclear engineer is not going to have a nuclear meltdown.) (The best place for nuclear reactors is on a ship surrounded by enough water that a magnitude 11 earthquake wont damage it. I am aware that is significantly more powerful than theoretically possible.) In the end you end up with activated carbon that can be used in high end filters or burned without scrubbers. (depending on what is being captured in the filter the used filters can be cleanly burned without scrubbers.) The extracted chemicals and gas have to be cooled and this waste heat can and should be used. Electricity and community heating springs to mind.


This system has far less environmental impact than continuing to use fossil fuels which impact the entire planet. There is obviously impact on the immediate environment but it is a very small area and the local wildlife will not be overly inconvenienced. Really it is about all of us using as little energy as we can. There are too many humans on the planet to sustain current levels of consumption. Hopefully in a generation we will be better able to manage how much we each require, and have smaller houses so the same array will service 150,000 houses instead of only 50,000. And the technology continues to develop.

Pari Gilmour

Wow will they feel stupid when they realize that by raising these panels up about 10'-15' they can re-capture some valuable real estate. There are so many things you can do with a partially shaded area. From agricultural use to parking to warehouse space and much more. Why not dual purpose the land?

John Christian

No point in dual purposing this land John. Nothing but nothing grows there, it's all sand, rocks and blazing sun. Plus no one needs a 300 acre warehouse in the middle of nowhere, and the outback already has plenty of space for parking. Seriously folks, type Broken Hill into google maps and have a look at where it is. (The satellite pic is particularly enlightening) Australia is a big, and mostly empty, place, and Broken Hill is in one of the countrys less hospitible, and most isolated spots. This plant seems to me to be a fine use for land that is otherwise useless.


What happend to those Maglev wind turbine project, that theorically could power 750,000 houses (1 GW power gen i think) and only take up 100 acres?

James Lynch
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