3 minute read

Scalable solar: a solution for remote locations?

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AGL Energy
22 July 2019

AGL recently cut the ribbon on a 2.12 MW ground-mounted solar energy system at Santos’ Port Bonython hydrocarbon processing plant in Whyalla, South Australia, to help power the remote facility with solar energy.

Due to the relative remoteness of the plant, we developed a custom solution to deliver the 5,580-module solar system to site. The solar array build combined prefabrication, modular design, and rapid deployment of the array tables to streamline engineering and procurement. This also served to transfer cost, time, and risk from the remote construction site to the more controlled environment of the factory.

Each of the 62 array tables weighs six tonnes, and together, the array covers 14,500 m2.


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Santos’ hydrocarbon processing plant at Port Bonython, South Australia – with the new solar plant operational

Perspectives from AGL on the project


According to Daniel Trujillo from AGL’s Business Energy Services team, “A big part of what we have installed for Santos had to do with minimising risk, specifically site risks associated with earth movement, civil works and site works.

“We provided a solution that is prefabricated and redeployable and we didn’t have to do major ground works as the solar array sits on top of a ground mounted ballasted frame system, instead of ground piles.

“The nature of the solution makes it fast to deploy plus, you can pick it up and take it somewhere else if required. The shorter timeframe and site risks resulted in improved overall project economics.”

The solar panel mounting system was manufactured in Adelaide, the high-voltage inverter station in Melbourne, and the installation on site was carried out by workers from Whyalla.

The Santos solar plant now generates more than 3 GWh of clean energy per year – enough to power 500 Australian homes and families, or equivalent to 6% of the energy in use at the facility.

Scaling the solution up


There is no one-size-fits-all solution for projects like the Port Bonython facility. A range of factors have to be taken into account for each project – everything from environmental factors at the site to the client firm’s specific business needs – which means that each project must be truly bespoke.

But the modularity and scalability of these projects makes them increasingly attractive to firms who are looking for an example of how it might work for them, particularly if they’re located in a remote area.

Is Western Australia an emerging market?


Consider Western Australia, where mining and petroleum businesses represented 85% of WA’s income 2017-18, often in remote locations. A place where energy usage, cost and reliability are prompting increased interest in renewable energy solutions.

This interest was evident when mining representatives gathered in Perth for the Energy and Mines Australia Summit at the end of June to discuss the transition to affordable, reliable and low-carbon energy where many participants emphasised the uniqueness of the state’s mining sector.

Daniel Trujillo, who was a speaker and panellist at the conference stated, “Over the last year or two, there’s been a clear increase in interest from heavy energy users, fuelled by the drop in the levelized cost of renewable energy, the variability of fuel prices, social license to operate requirements, and shareholder activism.”

AGL expanded its Western Australian operations in March to focus particularly on the state’s business clients going through their own energy transition and we’re excited about the opportunity to deliver solutions that work for our customers.