agl-broken-hill-solar-plant-looking-east australia.jpg
Photograph: arena.gov.au

Australia's two largest solar plants have begun providing power to the national electricity grid, the government said Wednesday, calling it a watershed moment for big solar in the country.

More than 2 million solar panels will produce approximately 360,000 MWh of renewable energy annually, enough to power more than 50,000 homes, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) said.

The solar photovoltaic plants were built by energy giant AGL and solar developer First Solar in New South Wales.

ARENA provided 166.7 million Australian dollars (114 million US dollars), and the New South Wales government provided 64.9 million Australian dollars for the construction of the two plants.

The plants are the largest and second-largest solar plants in Australia. Combined, they spread over 390 hectares of land.

"In the future, this historic achievement will mark the moment big solar started to become a major contributor to Australia’s energy supply," ARENA’s acting chief executive Ian Kay said during the inauguration.

"Ultimately, this momentum will allow us to capitalize on Australia’s world-leading solar resource and speed up the transition to renewable energy for our electricity needs."

The plants will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually, which is equivalent to 82,000 cars on the road, AGL said.

Despite being heavily dependent on coal energy, Australia last month signed a commitment to reduce carbon emissions and limit temperature increase to 2 degrees at the United Nations COP21 meeting in Paris.

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