CEFC commits to new solar farm as Australia ramps up its transition to net zero by 2050
20 January 2022
The CEFC has announced a $37 million commitment to Blue Grass Solar Farm, its 32nd solar farm investment since inception and a further demonstration of the critical role it plays in Australia’s transition to net zero emissions.
The investment, on behalf of the Australian Government, supports the latest solar technology to further strengthen the nation’s renewable energy grid while delivering vital infrastructure to regional Queensland.
The 200MWp Blue Grass Solar Farm in Columboola, South East Queensland will feature bifacial solar panels and half-cut cells technology, both of which increase performance and efficiency.
The investment will also support Solar 30 30 30, an ARENA-led initiative that will help achieve ultra low-cost solar. The initiative aims for solar PV to achieve 30 per cent efficiency at 30 cents per installed watt by 2030 and will help drive down costs to meet the goal of solar electricity generation at $15 per MWh.
CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said: “This latest renewable energy investment demonstrates that CEFC expertise and capital is central to the ongoing evolution of the sector. Blue Grass Solar Farm will include the latest technology that this innovative sector can deliver and will truly be a solar farm for the 21st century.
“Since our earliest investments, the CEFC has been instrumental to the development of renewable energy capacity, which is pivotal to cutting emissions across our economy. We’ve met the financial challenge of backing early developments, while delivering substantial investment and jobs to regional Australia. We have also stood by the industry during challenging economic times such as Covid-19, while building market confidence and attracting private sector capital.
“With this latest investment we are proud to have contributed to the delivery of more than 3.5 GW of low emissions generating capacity, including 2 GW of solar and 1.5 GW of wind. This clean energy will underpin our energy transition for generations to come.”
The investment builds on new renewable energy investment commitments by the CEFC of $810 million in 2020–21, representing a 53 per cent increase on the $529 million of the previous year and reflecting its investments in large-scale battery projects and the landmark Snowy 2.0 grid infrastructure expansion.
Mr Learmonth added: “The transition to net zero emissions requires substantial decarbonisation, at a much faster pace than we are currently achieving. One of the most effective ways to do that is to fortify Australia’s renewable energy sector and reduce the cost of solar PV generation to help meet stretch targets for technologies such as green hydrogen, low emissions steel and aluminium.”
Blue Grass Solar Farm is the first Australian project sponsored by the experienced renewables developer, X-Elio, and will be delivered through a partnership between Brookfield and KKR, which has built more than 2GW of solar PV plants across more than 10 countries.
Belinda Fan, X-ELIO's Country Manager in Australia, said: "We’re thrilled to have achieved financial close for the Blue Grass Solar Farm, our largest solar project in Australia and one that strengthens our position in the domestic renewables market where we continue to pursue new growth opportunities. This includes more than 600MW of projects in our development pipeline which is growing exponentially each year.
“X-ELIO is a global business with a local mindset, and we are committed to enhancing economic and social outcomes in the local communities and regions where we operate.”
Blue Grass Solar Farm is expected to cut emissions by approximately 320,000 tonnes CO2-e per annum. It will feature 375,000 bifacial solar panels, which have an increased generation capacity compared with existing panels, as well as half-cut cells technology which reduces the cell to half the normal size. This latest innovation means the smaller cells produce half the current, reducing power loss and improving efficiency to produce more energy.
X-Elio estimates about 400 regional jobs will be created during construction, which is expected to be completed in 2022.
A corporate power purchase agreement with US tech giant Salesforce will see it purchase 25 per cent of the Blue Grass output, contributing to its commitment to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2022. It is the US tech giant’s first renewable energy offtake agreement in Australia.
The Queensland Government-owned generation company Stanwell will also purchase a share of energy generation, to help meet customer demand for green energy and support the State’s transition to a lower carbon future.
The CEFC commitment is part of a syndicate of lenders that also includes ING and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC).
Blue Grass Solar Farm will be built 20 kilometres west of Chinchilla, in the Darling Downs Renewable Energy Zone (REZ). A REZ involves the coordinated development of new grid infrastructure in areas with abundant renewable energy resources, efficiently, and cost effectively, connecting multiple generators to the grid in the same region. In Phase 1 of AEMO’s 2020 Integrated System Plan, projects like this are being developed to take advantage of the existing spare network capacity to contribute towards Queensland’s ambitions to achieve 50 per cent renewable energy generation by 2030.
X-ELIO is a leading company specialised in the development, construction, financing and operation of photovoltaic plants with global presence in Europe, United States, Latin America, Japan and Australia. The firm counts with 16 years of experience in the industry with more than 2.6 GW built and 25 PV plants in operation and presence in 10 countries. In 2019, it achieved a revenue in excess of €100M. The group is a global leader in renewable and sustainable energy, with a strong commitment to the reduction of greenhouse gases and the fight against climate change.
Media release, 2022