A 48.5MW solar farm being built by US solar developer and module manufacturer First Solar in central western New South Wales has reached financial close, becoming the latest project selected from ARENA’s groundbreaking large-scale solar competitive round to do so.
First Solar said on Monday that the project had reached financial close, an achievement that comes less than four months after the company signed with EnergyAustralia to buy the output from the solar farm, as part of a 13-year Power Purchase Agreement.
At the time, First Solar’s head of Australian development Jack Curtis said he could not reveal the pricing details of the Manildra PPA, but said unsubsidised solar projects were currently priced at around $80-$90/MWh.
Curtis said the ARENA funding round – Manildra was supported by $9.8 million of grant funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency – had helped a recent crop of solar projects meet that target band, but also noted that costs in Australia were falling quickly with the establishment of new solar supply chains and manufacturing and installation efficiency.
“Today’s milestone is a testament to the ability and experience of First Solar’s development and delivery team, and we congratulate ARENA and EnergyAustralia on their commitment to commercially viable projects,” saidCurtis.
“We have witnessed unprecedented cost reductions in large-scale solar in recent years. As the appetite for this asset class continues to grow, timely and reliable project delivery will be the strongest driver of future cost reductions, cementing solar as a competitive energy source in Australia,” he said.
EnergyAustralia managing director Catherine Tanna described the Manildra Solar Farm as a great example of the projects that would underpin the future of energy in Australia – the company has also recently signed PPAs for a 113MW wind farm in NSW, a 60MW solar project in Victoria and a 142MW solar farm in Queensland.
“Customers rightly expect access to reliable, affordable and cleaner supplies of energy which means the industry needs to evolve,” Tanna said in a statement on Monday.
First Solar said RCR O’Donnell Griffin had been appointed for the engineering, procurement and construction of the project, the latter of which is set to begin within months.
“Construction will soon begin at the site, creating new economic opportunities for Australian businesses and families in the local region,” ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said of the Manildra project.
“By supporting innovators like First Solar, ARENA has fast-tracked the development of substantial new Australian industries like the large-scale solar sector, which is now on the cusp of being commercial.”