11 August 2017
A former coal mining hub is the Sunshine State's solar hot spot with two new large-scale solar farms about to begin construction near Collinsville in north Queensland.
Developer Edify Energy's latest large-scale solar projects are the 150MW (AC) Daydream Solar Farm and the 50MW (AC) Hayman Solar Farm. They are located near its 57.5MW (AC) Whitsunday Solar Farm and the 57.5MW (AC) Hamilton Solar Farm, which are already under construction.
Another 42MW (AC) solar farm is being developed by RATCH-Australia Corporation, at the site of the disused Collinsville power station. All five projects have secured finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).
The finance is part of the CEFC's broader investment in both large and small-scale solar, which now involves commitments of more than $900 million for projects and programs valued at around $2.7 billion.
CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said the continued growth in large-scale solar projects in high insolation areas like north Queensland made enormous sense as part of the Australian economy's transition to net zero emissions by the second half of the century.
"These developments are helping drive Australia's clean energy transformation, by taking advantage of ideal solar energy generation conditions and building experience and expertise in the sector," Mr Learmonth said.
"We are looking to finance projects that enhance grid stability while developing new renewable energy generators. These two new projects have the ability to integrate future storage solutions, increasing the clean energy benefits to the grid."
Mr Learmonth said the solar projects also reflect the CEFC's focus on delivering clean energy solutions in the Great Barrier Reef catchment area as part of its Reef Funding Program.
"By financing the development of solar farms in the Reef Catchment Area, we are developing cleaner ways of powering local communities, which can have a positive impact on the long-term health of the Reef," Mr Learmonth said.
The CEFC is lending around $90 million to the latest Edify Energy projects, as part of a syndicated debt facility involving Commonwealth Bank and French investment bank Natixis. BlackRock Real Assets, on behalf of its clients, is providing equity towards the projects.
Origin has signed a 12-year power purchase agreement for 100 per cent of the output from the Daydream solar farm, which is expected to be operational by mid-2018. Energy generated by the Hayman solar farm will be sold into the grid on a merchant basis.
CEFC Solar Lead Gloria Chan said the CEFC was pleased to be working with Edify Energy on a second set of projects, while bringing some important new investors - BlackRock and Natixis - to the Australian large-scale solar sector.
"This transaction marks a significant turning point for large-scale solar financing in Australia," Ms Chan said. "We worked alongside Commonwealth Bank and Natixis to deliver a syndicated facility where all parties were comfortable with providing long-term finance that extends past the period covered by the contracted offtake agreement.
"This demonstrates a growing understanding of the investment opportunity available through large-scale solar, and a willingness to provide patient capital to develop this important renewable energy resource. It further demonstrates that it is now possible to develop commercially viable large-scale solar projects without grant funding."
Edify Energy Chief Executive John Cole said: "We are excited to have closed a second large-scale solar financing project with the CEFC and consider this transaction to be another significant step forward in mainstreaming solar power in the Australian renewable energy sector. The CEFC played an invaluable role in enabling the financing of the projects."
RCR Tomlinson is constructing the solar farms, which are expected to create around 300 jobs during construction. The projects consist of about two million solar panels.
Together, the solar farms, are expected to abate more than 476,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually, and generate enough power for an estimated 73,000 homes.
Earlier this year the CEFC committed a total of $77 million to three other Edify Energy projects - the Whitsunday and Hamilton solar farms, and the 50 MW (AC) Gannawarra Solar Farm in Victoria.
The CEFC has also committed $60 million to the RATCH-Australia Corporation solar farm at the old Collinsville Power station site.
Ms Chan said that the CEFC remained committed to financing more large-scale solar projects where it was needed. "We're also looking at hybrid projects that combine solar with other technologies in a way that will promote more effective clean energy outcomes," Ms Chan added.
Edify Energy is an Australian renewable energy development and investment company, founded by John Cole in 2015. Edify Energy is taking a leading position in the Australian renewable energy and storage market. Edify has originated and closed the financing of 5 (440 MWp DC) utility scale solar PV projects in Australia. Edify provides development capital to projects, and works with its partners to ensure high quality renewable and storage projects are structured, financed and brought into operation. Edify maintains a minority equity interest in all of its projects and provides long-term asset management services. For more information visit www.edifyenergy.com