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Economic boost for Townsville as CEFC commits to $20m investment in Ross River Solar Farm

6 February 2017

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) will invest $20 million in the Ross River Solar Farm near Townsville, providing an economic boost to the region and accelerating the development of Australia's biggest solar farm.

The investment is the first in a series of large-scale solar investments the CEFC will make in Queensland this year as the organisation works with developers on speeding up the delivery of clean energy opportunities.

The Ross River investment is also the first time the CEFC has taken an equity stake in a solar farm, sending an important signal to institutional investors about the commercial potential of greenfield clean energy developments.

When completed in 2018, the $225 million Ross River Solar Farm is expected to generate enough energy to power the equivalent of 65,000 homes.

The 116MW AC (142MW DC) project is being developed by ESCO Pacific and specialist infrastructure manager Palisade Investment Partners. The project has secured a 13-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with EnergyAustralia, which is understood to be the largest single solar PPA in Australia to date.

CEFC Investment Funds Lead Rory Lonergan said: "Queensland has an excellent natural environment for the development of renewable energy projects such as large-scale solar, offering both economic and clean energy benefits.

"By investing equity in the early stage of such projects, we are looking to unlock much needed capital to support an accelerated growth path. This means renewable energy projects can be built more quickly, and begin generating power to the grid sooner.

"As an equity investor, we are also further demonstrating the commercial strength of clean energy projects. This is one way in which we can help create investment opportunities for Australian institutional investors such as superannuation funds, which are expressing a growing appetite for sustainable investments."

Townsville City Council approved the project in June 2016. Construction is expected to commence in the first quarter of 2017, and will take approximately 12 months to complete, creating more than 150 construction jobs. The Ross River site - a disused mango plantation south-west of Townsville - is in an area of high solar irradiance and close to the electricity grid. The solar farm will cover more than 200 hectares, with some 450,000 solar panels using horizontal tracking technology to best harness the sun's energy.

Queensland will see an investment boom in large-scale clean energy projects this year, with the CEFC looking forward to providing on debt finance to some developments as part of its $250 million large-scale solar program. These projects are nearing financial close and will be announced shortly.