Work on the long-awaited 280MW Cultana Solar Farm in South Australia appears set to begin with Simec Energy Australia announcing this week it is preparing to start construction on the $350 million project.

From pv magazine Australia

The 280MW Cultana Solar Farm has been on the drawing board for more than four years but project developer Simec Energy Australia, a part of British industrialist Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance, has in recent weeks published a string of notices indicating work on the renewable energy power plant is about to begin.

“The Cultana Solar Farm is … gearing up to start construction,” the company said this week in a social media post.

The Cultana project, being developed on an 1100-hectare site north of Whyalla on the Eyre Peninsula, received development approval in mid-May 2019. In 2020 the South Australian (SA) government signed a 10-year power purchase agreement with energy retailer ZEN Energy for the supply of renewable energy from the plant.

Construction of the project has however been repeatedly delayed with GFG under a financial microscope in recent years following the collapse of major backer Greensill.

In May last year, GFG announced it was looking to find a potential buyer or development partner for the Cultana project, but it now appears the company is pushing ahead with the development.

Simec has in recent weeks advertised a series of roles connected with the construction of the project which would be one of the largest solar farms in the state,

Sunrise at Cultana Solar Farm — a digital impression of the scene to come. Image: Simec Energy Australia

The company said the project site, to the north of GFG’s Whyalla Steelworks, is set to house 780,000 solar panels capable of generating 700GWh of energy per year, enough to power 100,000 homes.

Once construction is complete, the energy generated will contribute to the national electricity grid via the existing Cultana and Whyalla substations.

The project is also expected to play a part in GFG’s plans to modernize the Whyalla Steelworks, which is operated by GFG subsidiary Liberty Primary Metals Australia (L{MA}, by supplying it with low-cost renewable energy.

Although the steelworks will not have a direct behind-the-meter connection to the solar farm, the company has said it will have contracts in place that will effectively utilize the financial hedge that comes out of the solar farm.

Simec’s confirmation that it is preparing to commence construction of the Cultana Solar Farm follows the SA government’s announcement earlier this month it would provide a $50 million grant to co-finance efficiency projects at the Whyalla Steelworks.

LPMA steel executive managing director Jason Schell said the grant will fund approved projects to improve Whyalla’s productivity and efficiency, to be matched on a “dollar for dollar” basis by LPMA.

“The objective of the $50 million grant is to contribute to approved projects that aim to improve the productivity and efficiency of the Whyalla’s Integrated Steelworks,” he said.