The 100MW Bomen solar farm near Wagga Wagga in south-west New South Wales has begun production and exporting to the grid – one of the very few that has managed to achieve this more or less on schedule.
The Bomen solar project is interesting because it was bought by Spark Infrastructure, which normally focuses on network investment (it owns the main distributor in South Australia, two local networks in Victoria and has a stake in transmission company Transgrid).
The solar farm investment is part of a switch to “non regulated” investments which could deliver bigger returns that the traditional poles and wires, even if it carries some more risk.
Given it is owned and operated by a network owner, it may be hardly surprising that it is delivering its first output on time, unlike a host of other solar projects which have been delayed for months, or in some cases more than a year, because of connections and commissioning issues – some of which have occurred in its area.
The Bomen solar farm, Spark CEO Rick Francis noted late last month, had been mechanically complete and was due to start its first generation in early March.
That appears to have happened (see the graph from Global Roam below which shows it pushing out up to 4MW), although it is standard procedure that the project will work its way through various “hold points” as part of the commissioning process before reaching full production in a few months.
Still, Francis said last month that Spark was cautious about new investments due to the well-documented curtailment and grid congestion issues. But he made clear that Spark is interested in buying and building new renewable energy projects, both wind and solar, along with battery storage, to tap further into the transition to renewables.
He noted that this business, along with Spark’s partly owned contracting group Beon Energy Solutions, which built this solar farm, offers higher growth, if higher risk, than its conventional poles and wires.
Bomen has contracts with Flow Power and Westpac Banking Corp, and will supply electricity to customers such as the Sydney Opera House, Sydney’s Ascham School and industrial group Molycorp among others, through those contracts.
Spark expects revenue of around $13.5 million a year from the Bomen solar farm, which translates into a megawatt hour price of less than $60/MWh, including large-scale renewable energy certificates (LGCs).
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