Medium-scale solar farms are expected to play a major role in Australia’s energy transition. They are quick to develop and construct, highly scalable, generate economies of scale, avoid many of the grid connection risks, and can be located closer to electricity consumers.
The Solarion Renewable Fund will initially include the operating Solarion SA U1 Solar Farm plus four other solar farms, each 5 MWac in size. Through the Fund, Investors have the unique opportunity to invest into their selected medium-scale solar project after it has finished construction and become operational.
Targeting a final portfolio size of 200MW+, further high-value medium-scale solar assets will be added to the Fund over the coming years. These future projects will contribute to a balanced portfolio of solar assets strategically located across Australia and create economies of scale with lower equipment, construction and operating costs driving efficiency and higher returns.
Solarion SA U1 Solar Farm
The SA U1 Solar Farm is an operating solar asset located near Murray Bridge in South Australia. Development of the SA U1 Solar Farm commenced in 2018 when Solarion obtained a 30-year lease for vacant, unproductive land located alongside a 33kV distribution line. A grid connection agreement was executed with SA Power Networks and the State Government sponsored a fast-track Section 49 planning process so the project could quickly receive planning approval.
The SA U1 Solar Farm began construction in early 2019 and by July 2019 it began exporting electricity, ramping up to full production in August 2019. Every aspect of the project has been designed and built to the highest standards. The inverters came from SMA, a single axis tracking system was procured from Arctech and 370Wp Yingli panels were used.
Solarion SA U2 Solar Farm
The Solarion SA U2 Solar Farm (SA U2 Solar Farm) is located near Naracoorte in the south-east of South Australia. This project is fully permitted and construction ready. It is 4.95 MWac / 5.8 MWdc and the substation has a MLF/DLF of 1.0313.
The 30-year lease agreement for the SA U2 Solar Farm has commenced, the grid connection agreement with SA Power Networks has been executed, and development approval has been granted by the Naracoorte Lucindale Council.
Solarion SA U3 – U5 Solar Farms
The remaining three medium-scale solar projects are located near Murray Bridge and in close proximity to the SA U1 Solar Farm. They will all be 4.95 MWac / 5.8 MWdc
Each of the projects have current Option to Lease agreements with different landowners and development approval has been granted by the Rural City of Murray Bridge. The grid connection agreements for the projects are expected in December 2020.
Why medium-scale solar
Medium-scale solar’s impact on the Australian renewable energy industry is expected to increase in the coming years. And it's easy to see why. Medium-scale projects offer a number of advantages over their larger-scale counterparts.
- It's easier to find smaller sites close to substations and electricity consumers, and still avoid land currently used for agricultural purposes
- The smaller project footprint of medium-scale projects is more likely to foster community support and attract less scrutiny during the planning approval process
- Expensive and time-consuming grid modelling is not required by the DNSP
- The entire grid connection process can be completed in 4 months
- The commissioning process for medium-scale solar projects typically takes a few hours, whereas large-scale solar projects can take up to 18 months and must be staged according to AEMO requirements
- There is minimal MLF risk for a medium-scale solar project. Each medium-scale project is on the distribution line (not transmission line), is subject to the substation MLF, which rarely change or decrease, and they do not receive site-specific MLFs like the larger solar projects
- The model is highly scalable. The projects can easily be repeated across various locations and as multiple medium-size solar projects are constructed there are significant economies of scale and efficiencies
- Each project can be fully permitted and ready for construction within 4-5 months and the construction phase typically only takes 6-7 months
Despite these advantages, medium-scale projects have largely gone under the radar and struggled to penetrate the market. To leverage this opportunity, the Solarion Renewable Fund is specifically focusing on medium-scale <5 MW solar farms that are flexible, bespoke, and tailored to generate attractive, regular income.