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Renewable energy sector booming

Solar power in Australia is set to take another step forward with the commissioning of a new large scale solar power plant at Broken Hill, New South Wales.

AGL Energy is developing the project with construction set to begin in 2014. AGL Energy is a prominent renewable energy company with wind, hydro and biomass renewable energy interests.

The Broken Hill solar PV power project will occupy approximately 200 hectares of land and is set to provide 50 MW of capacity. Over 650,000 solar PV modules will be installed at the site at a north-facing fixed tilt.

Broken Hill was chosen as the site for this solar plant as the town has one of the highest levels of solar radiation in NSW, so conditions are ideal.

With a large population and several mines nearby, there is strong need for electricity suppliers in the region.

The company received a grant from the federal government's Solar Flagships Program, an initiative set up in 2009 with the aim of providing the foundation for large-scale, grid connected solar power.

Its purpose is to help support solar power to play a significant role in Australia's electricity supply and to operate in a competitive electricity market.

As well as this, its other aims are to support the Australian solar power industry, encourage regional development, provide research infrastructure, and share technical and economic knowledge.

Former minister for resources and energy Martin Ferguson said of the Solar Flagship Program, "The government is committed to the deployment of large-scale renewable energy technologies in Australia."

"That is why we have put in place a staged and gated approach to funding grants under the Solar Flagships program."

"Government has always had a role to play supporting the research, development and commercialisation of new technologies."

Through this program, the Australian federal government is providing the Broken Hill solar plant with $129.7 million in funding, while the NSW state government is providing $64.9 million.

The Broken Hill solar plant will use First Solar's advanced cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin film photovoltaic modules. Once the modules have reached the end of their life, they are recyclable and will be treated and processed into new modules or other products.

These thin film modules have no air emissions, waste production or water use, therefore have one of the smallest carbon footprints of any current PV technology.

Posted by Charlie Moore

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