By HARRY CLARKE
THE French company building Australia’s largest solar farm is still aiming to complete the mammoth project on time, despite construction delays it has attributed to wet weather and slow deliveries.
In an official update provided exclusively to the Caller, renewable energy giant Neoen said the 460MW Western Downs Green Power Hub (WDGPH) being built near Chinchilla was planned to be completed in the first quarter of 2022.
And the 300-person workforce currently deployed at the 1500ha site off Kogan-Condamine Rd could more than double by the end of this year. The workforce will reduce drastically to about 10 personnel once construction is completed.
“The construction of the WDGPH is progressing well,” said Adam Dodds, construction project manager.
“Some wet weather events coupled with some later than expected deliveries mean that the project is tracking a little behind schedule but the project team is working hard to mitigate any impact to the target completion date in Q1 2022.”
The $600 million solar farm will comprise more than 1 million individual solar panels and generate enough electricity to power 220,000 homes by the time it’s in full operation.
Neoen said last year that up to 800 workers could be employed on site at the height of construction, a majority of which would be unskilled labourers, and potentially more than 100 electricians.
Lead contractor Sterling & Wilson, an Indian renewables developer, previously claimed it had the capacity to install 10,000 panels per day.
Mr Dodds (pictured) said the critical substation component was on schedule, while the two 300MVA high voltage transformers, two main switch rooms and the control room were all delivered and installed last month.
“The local road upgrades for site access have been substantially completed and are regularly monitored for maintenance. Over 70 percent of the internal roads have been constructed,” he said.
“Underground cable installation across site is ongoing with over 90km of medium voltage (33kV) AC trenches laid with cable across the site.
“Over 40 percent of piles have been installed and the PV (solar panel) tracking structure installation is underway. The workforce will ramp up considerably for this activity over the next few months.
“There are currently upwards of 300 workers on site. This number could more than double between now and the end of 2021 before tapering down during the project commissioning phase and stabilising at around 10 full time workers as the project transitions to the operations phase.”
He said after connecting the WDGPH to the national electricity grid, via a new 6km transmission line built by Powerlink, a period of full system testing would be carried out as the plant ramps up to full output.