Solar farm reaches another milestone but no construction date yet

Plans for a large solar farm just north west of Katherine has reached another milestone with a sale agreement for any power it eventually generates.

But while the NT Government was today trumpeting the deal as the biggest solar project in the NT and that construction work would start within months, there is still no guarantee the project will ever go ahead.

Plans were revealed last year by Sydney-based Epuron to locate about 75 hectares of solar panels just five kilometres from the town.

Power from thousands of photovoltaic panels would feed into an upgraded sub-station here in Katherine and through the Darwin network to supply mainly Darwin customers with 25 megawatts of green power.

Katherine is known to have a world-class solar resource and lots of available flat land.

Epuron won NT development approval for the solar farm last year and have since partnered with UK company Island Green Power to form Katherine Solar.

Epuron already owns and operates solar power stations in the NT at Alice Springs, Yulara, Kalkarindji, Ti Tree and Lake Nash/Alpurrurulam.

Renewable projects like Katherine are costly to build and most often require Federal Government support to be built.

Subdivision plans for the project just off the Stuart Highway were approved last year, the actual power project was approved even earlier.

Subdivision plans for the project just off the Stuart Highway were approved last year, the actual power project was approved even earlier.

Epuron has missed several self-imposed deadlines along the path to actual construction and no actual date was set today.

A power purchase agreement between Jacana Energy and Katherine Solar Pty Ltd will enable the construction of the $40 million project, create over 100 jobs during construction and be the largest renewable energy generator in the NT, the government said today.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner used the Katherine plans, which had already been approved last year, to claim the Katherine solar farm would help meet the government’s target of its 50 per cent renewables by 2030.

These reforms include a competitive wholesale electricity market consistent with recommendations made by the independent panel in the Roadmap to Renewables report.

The government has also promised to develop a Northern Territory Electricity Market over the next year.

Government will also begin consultation shortly on a review of supply and feed-in tariffs to encourage behind the meter energy storage for those with rooftop solar photovoltaics.

Governments can mandate the amount to be paid to owners for spare power they sell back into the grid.

This was also one of the recommendations made by the renewables panel to increase system reliability and enable Territorians to reduce their electricity costs during the most expensive times of the day. 

The reforms aim to encourage cheaper renewables into the system, putting downward pressure on power prices.

The government also claimed the Katherine project would be the first of a number of large-scale solar projects proposed by investors.

Chief Minister Mr Gunner said: “Our election commitment of 50% renewables by 2030 is already paying dividends by creating local jobs in the growing renewable energy sector.

Epuron executive director Martin Poole said: “Epuron is pleased to be entering into an agreement to sell solar electricity to Jacana. We look forward to the Katherine solar project moving into construction in the coming months."

“The NT has great potential for solar energy, and it is exciting to see the Territory Government’s initiatives to enable investors to compete to generate the lowest cost solar power for the grid."

Solar experts say 25 megawatts could be enough power for the entire needs of about 4000 homes.

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