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Wind and solar farms are still stuck in the waiting room

An update on the status of new wind and solar farm connections in Australia. The news is not encouraging.

Source: Pinterest

Back in May, I wrote a post about the wind and solar farms connecting to the electricity grid over the next twelve months. With the release of AEMO’s latest generation information on July 22nd, I can provide an update on how things are going and compare what has changed since the previous release on May 1st. 

And the news is not encouraging. Much like Agent Dale Cooper in the red room of Twin Peaks, not knowing when he’ll be allowed to leave and whether he’ll have to wait two minutes or 25 years, completed wind and solar farms continue to be stuck indefinitely in the waiting room of the electricity grid in record numbers. 

Since May 1, just one solar farm has entered full service. This is despite 14 wind and solar farms originally being scheduled to enter full service by the end of July.

Table 1. Just one solar or wind farm has entered service since May 1.

StateWind and solar projectsSize (MW)
QLDHaughton solar133

The connection dates for many projects have been delayed even further since May. The full commercial use dates for 18 wind and solar projects have been pushed back, a clear sign that AEMO is still struggling to deliver timely connections. Ten of these projects have been hit by comparatively minor delays of one to two months, albeit these delays add to existing delays of months or even years.

Eight projects face more severe delays:

  • The Bungala 2 solar farm and Murra Warra stage one wind farm have been delayed by three months, while the Goonumbla, Kiamal stage one and Glenrowan West solar farms have all been delayed by four months.
  • The Dundonnell wind farm in Victoria has been delayed by five months.
  • The Yarranlea solar farm in Queensland has been delayed by six months.
  • Worst of all, stage 2 of the Lincoln Gap wind farm in South Australia has been delayed a full 14 months. Instead of connecting next month, it will now have to wait until October next year.

To reiterate, almost all these projects have finished construction. The delays are overwhelmingly caused by strict new grid connection rules introduced by the operator of the electricity grid, AEMO.

There is a silver lining: the number of projects in commissioning (ie. in the process of connecting to the grid) has surged from nine to seventeen. Eleven of these projects are schedule to be online by the end of August. I am very skeptical AEMO will keep to this timetable but we live in hope.

AEMO has also provided full commercial use dates for six new wind and solar projects. These are outlined in the table below. One of these projects, the Silverton wind farm in New South Wales, had actually been classified as ‘in service’ until the latest update, when its status reverted to ‘in commissioning’ (it seems that the previous ‘in service’ listing was an error as it has been reported that the project had faced connection issues for the last two years).

Table 2. Full commercial use dates for six new wind and solar projects have been revealed in the latest Generation Information update.

StateWind and solar projectsFull commercial use dateSize (MW)
NSWSilverton wind*Aug-20199
VICBerrybank windOct-20181
QLDMiddlemount solarDec-2026
QLDBroadsound solarDec-20355
NSWWellington solarFeb-21211
NSWBango 973 windApr-21159

The delays to wind and solar farm connections are endangering the future of renewable energy development in Australia, probably more than any other factor. As RenewEconomy has reported extensively, many of the biggest wind and solar farm developers have abandoned Australia over the last 18 months after making huge losses on projects that have completed construction but are unable to connect to the grid.

The next AEMO update – probably at the end of September or October – should provide a clearer picture of whether AEMO are actually getting on top of the connection process, or if the seemingly never-ending commissioning delays will continue to slowly suffocate the renewable energy industry. 

Table 3. Month of estimated full commercial operation of new wind and solar projects, as of July 22.

StateWind and solar projectsFull commercial
use date
Size (MW)
NSWBomen solarJul-20100
NSWNevertire solarJul-20132
VICElaine windJul-2084
VICYendon windJul-20144
VICCherry Tree windJul-2058
QLDMaryrorough solarJul-2035
QLDCoopers Gap windJul-20453
SABungala 2 solarAug-20135
VICMurra Warra Stage 1 windAug-20226
TASCattle Hill windAug-20144
SALincoln Gap wind stage 1Aug-20126
VICMortlake South windAug-20158
NSWSilverton windAug-20199
NSWGoonumbla solarSep-2070
NSWDarlington Point solarSep-20275
TASGranville Harbour windSep-20112
VICYatpool solarSep-2050
VICCrowlands windSep-2080
QLDKennedy solarOct-2015
QLDKennedy windOct-2043
QLDWarwick solarOct-2032
VICBerrybank windOct-20181
VICKiamal Stage 1 solarNov-20200
QLDOakey 2 solarNov-2056
NSWLimondale solar 1Nov-20220
QLDYarranlea solarDec-20103
VICDundonnell windDec-20336
NSWBiala windDec-2011
NSWSunraysia solarDec-20229
NSWCollector windDec-20227
NSWMolong solarDec-2032
QLDLilyvale solarDec-20118
VICMoorabool windDec-20312
VICStockyard Hill windDec-20532
VICBulgana Green Power Hub windDec-20194
QLDMiddlemount solarDec-2026
QLDBroadsound solarDec-20355
NSWWellington solarFeb-21211
QLDGangarri solarMar-21120
VICWinton solarMar-2185
VICGlenrowan West solarApr-21106
NSWCrudine Ridge windApr-21135
VICCohuna solarApr-2131
NSWBango 973 windApr-21159
SALincoln Gap wind stage 2Oct-2186
Total: 45 projects6,736

Note: This table includes the Mortlake South wind farm and the Broadsound solar farm, which are technically classified as emerging and maturing projects rather than committed projects. But both projects are expected to have full commercial use by the end of this year so I have included them in this post. Queensland is also home to the committed Hughenden solar farm but a full commercial use date is not provided and as such, it is not included in this post.

The data in this post was sourced from AEMO’s Generation Information July 2020. This is the one-stop shop for information on power stations in the National Electricity Market and is updated every few months.

* The Silverton wind farm was previously classified as ‘in service’. See note in text.

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