The Victorian Government recently expressed concerns an early closure of Hazelwood Power Station, one of the world’s filthiest coal-fired facilities, would threaten the state’s electricity supplies. News of the recent opening of a solar farm in the UK, built in just 6 weeks, should help allay those fears.
Aside from providing a clean and renewable source of electricity, solar farms can be constructed incredibly quickly – far faster that coal plants and even more so in comparison to nuclear facilities that can take a decade or more to build.
Last week, the UK’s largest solar farm was fully commissioned and connected to the mains grid. The 4.9MW station was developed by Lark Energy and is located at Hawton in Nottinghamshire.
The project consisted of 21,000 solar panels situated on 30 acres of former quarry land and will provide enough energy for the electricity needs of 1,300 homes.
It was a race against time to make the power station operational in order to beat a deadline for reductions in incentive payments in the UK for large scale solar. The financial paperwork for the project was only signed on 1st June, leaving just 8 weeks for the facility to be fully planned, built and connected. Lark Energy and its partners completed the project in just 6 weeks.
Jonathan Selwyn, Managing Director of Lark Energy, commented “I am delighted that Lark Energy has played a leading role in demonstrating how large scale renewable energy can be deployed quickly”.
As Australia finally begins the journey towards a low-carbon economy in earnest, it’s reassuring to know that solar power can quickly replace a substantial amount of coal-fired capacity. While a 4.9MW solar farm is by no means enough to make up the shortfall created by an early closure of Hazelwood, Environment Victoria recently pointed out there is currently 3,000 megawatts of renewable energy projects approved in Victoria, along with thousands of megawatts of gas projects that could be constructed in two to four years. With these new projects will come an abundance of jobs. Additionally, Victoria has an abundance of rooftops in its towns and cities that could be utilised for harvesting the sun.
How fast Victoria will be able to make the switch away from coal will be largely dependent on the political will to make it happen. Its been suggested the state Government should be focusing its efforts on the transition rather than expending energy on desperately trying to hang on to an antiquated, heavily polluting form of power generation that is finally in its death throes.