Learn about solar farms with these 10 solar farm facts
The sun is one of our best renewable energy sources and more than 30% of WA homes and businesses are already tapping into this by installing rooftop solar PV systems.
In the energy industry, solar technology is being deployed rapidly as the State transitions away from fossil fuels. With around $3.8 billion to be invested in new renewable energy infrastructure as part of the WA Government’s Energy Transformation Strategy, that famous WA sunshine will be put to work.
Currently our electricity generation mix in the South West Interconnected System (the SWIS) includes traditional (or non-renewable) energy sources from fossil fuels and renewable energy generated by sources such as solar PV systems and wind power.
As our energy industry changes, we could see more solar farms here in WA in the future. Here are 10 solar farm facts to help you get up to speed.
Solar farm fact #1: Solar farms have other names in the energy industry
Solar farms are also known as photovoltaic power stations, solar parks, solar fields, large-scale solar (LSS) or solar power plants.
Solar farm fact #2: Solar farms use solar panels on a large scale
In terms of electricity generation, solar farms work in the same way as rooftop PV systems – just on a much bigger scale.
The sun’s energy is captured by solar cells which sit inside solar panels. This is then converted into direct current (DC) electricity and sent to solar inverters which convert this electricity into alternating current (AC) which can be exported to the electricity grid.
Solar farm fact #3: Some solar farms can generate thousands of megawatts of solar energy
Most homes and businesses that have solar PV systems have their solar panels mounted on the roof. Sometimes, because of space, roof design or other restrictions, the solar PV systems can be set up in a suitable space at ground level. However, a ground-mounted solar PV system is not always considered a solar farm.
To be considered a solar park or solar farm, rather than simply a solar PV system mounted on the ground, these large-scale solar installations need to have a large capacity to generate solar power. Some solar farms in Australia have the capacity to generate at least 5 megawatts, with others able to generate much, much more. In fact, some solar farms can have a solar capacity of up to thousands of megawatts of solar energy.
Solar farm fact #4: Some solar farms include more than solar
The land used for solar farms can also be used for grazing sheep or combined with other farming activities. Some solar farms also include wind turbines, generating renewable energy from another source.
Generally, a one megawatt solar farm will take up two to three hectares of land. Solar farms are often owned privately, with the energy generated exported to the grid and sold to customers through electricity retailers.
Solar farm fact #5: Solar farms have been around since at least the 1980s
The first photovoltaic solar farm generated one megawatt of solar energy. It was constructed by Arco Solar at Lugo near Hesperia, California, at the end of 1982. Since then, solar technology has changed a lot. Solar PV systems are now widely used to generate energy around the world for homes and businesses.
Solar farm fact #6: WA had Australia’s first utility-scale solar farm
Greenough River Solar Farm (GRSF) was the first utility-scale photovoltaic project in Australia to be operational, supplying power to the Southern Seawater Desalination Plant in WA.
This project was a joint venture between Synergy and Bright Energy Investments. Constructed in 2012 around 50km southeast of Geraldton, this solar farm was built as a 10-megawatt fixed panel facility.
Solar farm fact #7: The world’s biggest solar farm is in India
At the moment, the world’s biggest solar farm is the Bhadla Solar Park which sits in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan, India.
This solar farm has a total solar capacity of 2,245 megawatts (2.245 Gigawatts) and covers an area of 56 square kilometres. To give you an idea of the size of this solar farm, in Perth this would stretch from around Mount Hawthorn to Como from north to south, and from Shenton Park to Burswood from east to west.
This record for the largest solar farm could change in the future as more solar farms are constructed around the world. As solar technology evolves, solar farms might not need this kind of space.
Solar farm fact #8: Australia’s biggest solar farm is in Queensland
Construction has just finished on what is (at least for now) Australia’s biggest operating solar farm. This is a 400-megawatt Western Downs project owned by Neoen in Queensland and will spread out across 15 square kilometres.
In the near future, it is anticipated that a Sun Cable project will be constructed in the Northern Territory. This is designed to have an electricity generation capacity of around 10 gigawatts, which will make it the world's largest solar farm.
Solar farm fact #10: Solar farms are an important part of Australia’s electricity generation
Using figures from February 2022, Australia’s large-scale solar capacity increased to a total of 5.8GW across 80 projects.
Investing in different forms of renewable energy generation is one of the ways that Synergy is working to help our energy supply be more reliable and sustainable. Learn more about one of these renewable energy sources by exploring these wind power facts.
Image: Greenough River Solar Farm is a Bright Energy Investment (BEI) asset which is joint venture between Synergy, CBUS and DIF.