Neoen’s Parkes Solar Farm will work very similarly to residential solar photovoltaic installations. The project’s solar panels will use solar irradiance to generate direct current, which will then be converted into alternative current with solar inverters, and be stepped up to 66kV to feed the national electricity grid.
What remains subject to final design studies is the type of mounting system that will be used for the project: in a context where new technological breakthroughs happen on a regular basis, Neoen will leave this choice opened until the very end of the project’s development stage. Neoen is experienced in financing, constructing and operating several different types of systems including north-facing fixed tilt systems, east/west-facing fixed tilt systems and single-axis tracking systems. Photos of Neoen solar plants with these technologies can be found in the library section of this website.
If Federal Funding is made available for the project, Neoen anticipates that a first stage of 60MW will start construction in Q4 2016 or Q1 2017. Construction timeframes can vary depending on the number of workers deployed on site, but a 9-month timeframe for this first stage would be typical.
Solar panels generally come with a 25-year manufacturer warranty. Depending on the local environment they can generate power for 30 years or more, with only about half a percent of efficiency loss each year. Neoen intends to operate the Parkes Solar Farm for 25 to 30 years, and may consider replacing the whole equipment with newer technologies once the initial project has been decommissioned.
Several independent studies have concluded that depending on the technology and the project location, the energy payback of a solar panel is somewhere between 1 and 3.5 years, with newer technologies reaching the best results. It means that in average solar panels will produce more than 10 times as much energy as has been required for their fabrication and installation.
Solar photovoltaic panels are designed to reflect as little light as technically possible (generally around 2% of the light received) in order to maximize their efficiency. This is why solar photovoltaic farms are not considered reflective and have been installed on a number of airports around the world.