An 11-megawatt solar power system is very large for an individual building, but still small when compared with the scale of the entire Australian power grid. However, the Dunblane solar farm in Queensland is remarkable for its innovative assembly procedure, in spite of its small size. The project was installed much faster than other photovoltaic arrays of similar scale, while using the available space more efficiently.
It is also important to note that the Dunblane solar farm was developed completely with private capital, and no government funding of any type. Solar power has experienced fast growth in Australia, with more than 1,000 megawatts deployed in 2017, but projects that are completely funded with private capital are still rare. This proves there is a favorable business case for commercial solar power, even when government incentives are taken out of the equation.
Solar photovoltaic arrays use a lot of space. This is not an issue with the size of Australia, but individual developers and building owners often have limited space for their solar power projects. The 11-MW Dunblane solar farm uses a modular racking system that allows twice as much generation capacity per hectare. In addition to its compact design, this system brings many other advantages:
The project received positive feedback from the Queensland Workplace Health and Safety, due to its safe installation procedures and the creation of local jobs. The modular technology is now being considered for a much larger installation in South Australia, with a planned capacity of 1,000 MW and including energy storage.
Installation of the Dunblane solar farm started in August 2017, and the project was completed by October 2017, requiring only 10 weeks and 4 days. Commissioning started on December 2018, and the project was fully operational by February 2018. By the end of April, the installation had already supplied 5,000 megawatt-hours of electricity to the grid.
The delay was due to the poor power network conditions in the surrounding area, requiring upgrades to accommodate 11 megawatts of new solar generation capacity, as well as a lengthy approval procedure. A Power System Computed Aided Design (PSCAD) study was completed for the surrounding network infrastructure as part of the Dunblane solar farm project.
With commercial solar arrays designed for fast installation, users have to wait less between their decision to deploy clean energy and reaping the benefits. The generation capacity that can be installed in a given area is also doubled.