Victoria’s Cohuna solar farm completed, joins queue for commissioning

Another solar farm, the 34MW Cohuna in Victoria, has completed construction and has now joined the queue for commissioning.

Tempo Services, the principal contractor for the Cohuna solar farm, told shareholders that the project was now mechanically complete.

There are now many wind and solar farms queuing for commissioning in the West Murray region. This area has been hit by “system strength” issues, and “voltage oscillation” problems that caused the Australian Energy Market Operator to reduce the output of five solar farms in the region by half for seven months until the issue was resolved.

Cohuna, near the town of Echuca, is Tempo’s first venture into the solar contracting space, and it had a troubled start, with work at the solar farm and the company’s shares suspended within a few weeks of the start of construction as it became clear there were risks of cost over-runs or delays.

It resumed work after re-negotiating its $15 million contract with Italian project owner Enel Green Power, and effectively putting a cap on its exposure to potential cost over-runs that it had described as “untenable”. It describes the change as a switch to a “target cost” contract rather than a “lump sum” contract.

Dalgleish’s presentation to shareholders last week indicated that Tempo – unlike many other contractors that have quit the market – is still looking for large scale solar contracts, although it was not clear whether this would be as principal contractor, or for a balance of plant works.

RenewEconomy sought to contact Tempo to seek more information, but its calls were not returned.

Cohuna is the third large scale solar project for Enel Green Power, a subsidiary of the Italian energy giant Enel. It also owns the Bungala 1 and Bungala 2 solar projects near Port Augusta in South Australia.

Both Bungala projects were sized at 110MW (ac) and together should have amounted to the largest solar project in Australia to date, but Bungala 2 has been hit by what Enel describes as “technical issues’ and has been limited to a maximum output of 20MW and has rarely produced any output at all in recent weeks.

Enel has reported losses of €43 million ($A73.5 million) to its accounts in the last year because of the delays and its impact on the value of its power purchase agreements (with Origin Energy).