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Big solar interview: Impact Investment’s Lane Crockett

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lane-detail-1Large scale solar is finally hitting the news in a major way in Australia in 2017, with a succession of new project announcements and an influx of new investors.

One of those is Impact Investment Group, which is looking to invet $1 billion in renewable energy plants and infrastructure in the next three years.

Its head of renewables, Lane Crockett, a former head of Pacific Hydro’s Australian operations, is to speak at the Large Scale Solar Conference to be jointly hosted by RenewEconomy and Informa early next month.

Here, he shares his thoughts about the industry, including opportunities, solar costs and battery storage.

RE: Lane, what’s attracted you (personally) to the large scale solar industry.

Crockett: There are four main factors that attract me to large scale solar:

  • The speed to market (less planning time and takes half the time to build a solar farm relative to a wind farm);
  • Fewer complicated community issues in the planning and development phases;
  • The price of solar farms has fallen considerably, making it the most competitive new build power in some jurisdictions; and
  • The time of day generation highly correlates with demand.

RE: What specifically is Impact Investment Group’s goal?

Crockett: Impact Investment Group is aiming to have a pipeline of $1BN of renewable infrastructure investment by 2020. We want to direct large amounts of capital towards investments with positive impacts.

RE: Why the interest in the 1MW to 30MW market?

Crockett: Whilst we are now looking at bigger facilities, we find that we are most competitive in the small to medium range of utility scale plants.

RE: Will there be enough choice of assets? is there really that many being built?

Crockett: Yes; there are many projects being developed. The most challenging part is designing the final commercial arrangements which underpin the building and operation of new projects.

RE: Are there any announcements imminent?

Crockett: Yes, but we’re not going to break news right now. Investors should keep an eye out.

RE: Where is the price of solar going?

Crockett: Solar continues to defy expectations as it continues to fall in cost. Not only are equipment costs continuing to fall but the construction market in Australia has become more competitive as contractors become more confident in their delivery methods and costs.

RE: Are you considering storage?

Crockett: Yes, but investment in storage remains problematic as there is no market mechanism to underpin that investment, except the spot price arbitrage, which is a risky strategy.

RE: How far are we from having a grid dominated by solar (and wind) instead of coal and gas?

Crockett: I think 5 – 10 years. It’s certainly feasible and Australia must do it to meet our international obligations to keep global warming under 2 degrees. If you consider the benefits that its a healthier form of electricity production and financially compelling for investors and consumers alike, then it’s a compelling case.


RenewEconomy and Informa’s jointly hosted Big Solar conference will be held in Sydney on April 6 and 7. More details can be found here.  

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  • humanitarian solar

    The present inverters may not be capable of adding storage later. Another challenge is engineers primarily design for grid energy flows and markets without primarily sizing and locating projects to service specific communities. The extend this is done well, is the extent the distributed generation and distributed storage provides those same communities with resilience in broader network and state distribution failures from weather events. Taking communities and people into account, provides an added advantage to projects.