NEW owner of the Singleton Solar Farm Andrew Thaler has big plans for the 17 year-old infrastructure.
He revealed his hopes to introduce community participation to expand the existing 2.75 hectare site (about the size of five football fields) at a Business Leaders Luncheon at the Singleton Visitor and Information Centre on Thursday.
“Anyone can put a solar panel on their roof but it won’t be completely effective because of building or tree shadows, it has greater potential if it is set up in the right configuration in a wide open space such as the Singleton Solar Farm,” he said.
While he’s still ironing out the project and bringing the existing site up to scratch he proposed that anyone can invest in the expanded solar farm, they would “purchase” a certain amount of kilowatts in the arrangement and would get a return on the electricity their solar panels created. They would also be able to monitor the output via an online system.
The 407 Kilowatt maximum output Singleton Solar Farm, located at Glenridding, was built over two stages in 1997 and 1998 from a Sustainable Energy Development Authority grant and was considered one of the biggest in the southern hemisphere for several years after it was built and was one of the top 20 in the world for size until 2002.
Mr Thaler said that he would need to replace half the invertors in the existing farm (after Ausgrid already replaced the other half three years ago) before he then put plans in motion to build a community farm adjacent to the existing solar farm aiming for the project to reach a generation of five Megawatts the highest it can supply on the existing high voltage power lines.
“There is immeasurable potential for solar it just needs skill, tenacity and the will of the people in the region to become a reality,” he said.
“It’s a big challenge and a discussion that needs to take place to change people’s perception on solar.”
He compared the potential of solar power and how some people viewed it to an earlier time period when people protested the introduction of cars.
“They said we have horses why do need cars but that’s history now,” Mr Thaler said.
“The solar industry is just another new concept.”
“To me this is not just about making money from solar, it is addressing the future for my kids with the means I have available to me now.”
Overseas adoption of solar power is growing rapidly for example On Monday June 9, which was a national holiday in Germany, solar power production peaked at 23.1 GW, which equaled 50.6 percent of total electricity demand, considering how much open space and sun Australia receives there is plenty of potential for solar developments.
Mr Thaler said that the myths about solar panels such as the grid collapsing from a power surge after the sun emerges from cloud cover have been dispelled and it was viable source of power.
On a broader scale Mr Thaler said there was opportunity for solar power in once mined land around the Hunter.
Mr Thaler completed his electrical apprenticeship at Bayswater Liddell and said back then he would often explore the back roads and find old coal washeries and power lines that weren’t being used by anyone.
“The sheer size of land and the already installed infrastructure of high voltage power lines would take away some of the high installation costs of solar panels,” Mr Thaler said.
“This is the middle ground we can keep coal while moving towards long term solutions like solar which is a ‘forever investment’ it’s not viewed on a geological time scale.”
Mr Thaler also has plans to invigorate the year 2000 Olympics’ athletes’ village Superdome solar panel array, 70kw, in Sydney and construct a solar farm on his land in Nimmitabel in Southern NSW which he hopes will become another community solar project.
Mr Thaler’s love of solar came from his childhood when he saved up his pocket money to buy a solar battery charger that helped keep his torch light going during camping trips.
He became more interested in solar power after he spent time as a plant electrical technician in Sydney for the Pacific Power/ University of NSW thin film solar research centre, Pacific Power Pty Limited.
Whilst at this job he worked with some of the big names of the solar industry professor Martin Green, Dr Stuart Wenham, Dr Zenrong Shi and Dr Renate Egan.
He then started his own contracting company in scrap metal which included contracts with Ausgrid (former owner of the Singleton Solar Farm), which is how he found out about the tender for the farm which went out in 2013.