Global infrastructure investment firm InfraRed Capital Partners has bought a 40 per cent stake in the 228MW Lal Lal wind farm in Victoria, in another ringing endorsement of the Australian renewables sector – and in particular, its ultra-competitive wind generation resource.
The deal gives InfraRed a share of the wind farm alongside renewables investment heavyweight Macquarie Capital, which bought the project from Westwind Energy in 2017.
Separate reports suggest Macquarie has sold a further 40 per cent share in the Lal Lal project to Northleaf Capital, a Canadian investment group that has this week opened an Australian office in Melbourne. In addition to Lal Lal, Northleaf has also invested in Waterloo Wind Farm, in south Australia.
Macquarie, one of the biggest players in renewables financing in Europe and the US, has recently been making a concerted push into its domestic market, including the March 2018 purchase of an equity stake in the Murra Warra wind farm, also in Victoria.
The significance of this deal is again the cheap prices offered, and the interest from corporate buyers.
As we reported here, the 226MW first stage of Murra Warra – located some 30km from Horsham – is a landmark project for Australia because it is the biggest, to date, and its output was bought by consortium of companies led by Telstra, and including ANZ, Coca Cola Amatil and the University of Melbourne .
The price was described at the time as “stunning”, and is believed to be in line with the also stunning sub-$55/MWh price negotiated by Origin Energy earlier this year for the 530MW Stockyard Hill.
The Lal Lal project is believed to be no less stunning, requiring a “black price” of sub-$50/MWh and offering an as yet undisclosed but highly competitive PPA price that includes “firming” – in other words, it incorporates the cost of when the wind does not blow.
In a statement on Monday, InfraRed said the project would also benefit from revenue offtake with “two Australian industrials” – RenewEconomy has asked both InfraRed and Macquarie for more detail on the offtake deal, and the identities of the buyers, but had not heard back.
But the fact that the project has secured an offtake deal is no great surprise, given the current corporate demand for clean electricity in Australia.
Australia’s burgeoning corporate market has seen the likes of CUB, Mars Australia, University of Queensland, Nectar Farms commit to going 100 per cent renewables within the next year or two, and others – including steelworks and refineries – using large-scale solar to offset their energy costs.
Added to the continuing fall in the cost of new wind and solar farms is the emergence of new firming contract products, which is allowing large corporate and industrial users to slash energy costs by up to 40 per cent, according to some experts.
As Giles Parkinson explains here, so-called firming contracts replicate the “shape” of a renewable project’s generation, and then match the buyer’s needs with contracts for supply to the wholesale market. This guarantees a flat and fixed price for that power.
This is seen as a way to “de-risk” and firm up cheap renewable energy generation, making it even more attractive for corporate buyers.
Lal Lal, which is being built by Vestas and Zenviron, is expected to be fully operational in late 2019, at which point it is expected to generate over 650GWh per annum, enough energy to power over 92,000 households.