A proposed 42MW solar farm in Collinsville, north Queensland, has become the latest large-scale solar project in Australia to seal a power purchase agreement, in a deal with Alinta Energy to buy the PV farm’s electricity and large-scale generation certificates until the end of 2030.
The developer of the $100 million project, Ratch Australia, says the inking of the PPA puts the project on track to begin construction in the first half of 2017.
“We are now in a position to finalise our construction and financing arrangements and to firm up the construction timetable,” said Ratch’s head of business development, Anthony Yeates.
“We expect pre-construction activities will take about three months so if all goes to plan we will break ground before June and have the first generation from the project by this time next year”.
Ratch’s plans for Collinsville – which have been in the works since 2013 – are to take advantage of existing electrical infrastructure, including substations and Ergon Energy’s distribution network, connected to the old coal-fried power station the company inherited through a 2011 purchase of Transfield Infrastructure.
The breakthrough for Collinsville follows last week’s show of support for big solar by the Queensland government, through the signing of support deeds for three separate large-scale projects in the state, including the Whitsunday solar farm that is being built near Collinsville.
It also follows a spate of major PPA signings, including EnergyAustralia’s recent deals with the 113MW Bodangora wind farm in NSW and the 60MW Ganawarra Solar Farm in Victoria; Snowy Hydro’s contract with the 100MW Tailem Bend solar farm in South Australia; Ergon Energy’s deal with the 100MW Lilyvale solar farm in Queensland; and Origin Energy’s PPA with Reach Solar’s Bungala Solar Project, a potentially 200MW affair being developed 7km north-east of Port Augusta.
Ratch’s deal with Alinta, however, stands out as a particularly positive sign for the big solar market, considering the energy retailer’s recent failure to meet its obligations under the large-scale Renewable Energy Target.
As we reported here in February, Alinta fell a total of 200,000 LGCs short of its RET obligations – an amount equivalent to one solar farm of around 100MW.
Similarly, ERM Power – which last week signed an off take deal with Edify Energy’s 58MW Hamilton Solar Farm, also in Queensland – fell short of its 2016 RET obligations by a much bigger margin.
Collinsville, says Ratch, will feature around 180,000 solar photovoltaic panels and supply power equivalent to the annual needs of 15,000 homes – roughly the number of homes in the surrounding Whitsunday region.
The project will have a peak construction workforce of around 70 and employ two permanent staff once complete. Up to 20 staff will be required every six months to clean the solar panels.
Yeates said engineering and construction of the project would be contracted out to a tier one contractor which will be responsible for all subcontracting and purchasing and be contractually required to provide clear pathways for local workers and suppliers to participate in the project.
“This project has the potential to provide millions of dollars of investment in the Whitsunday region, create much needed jobs, and grow the order books of local companies, and we are very keen to get it commenced” he said.