CEFC big solar investments pass $1 billion, with stake in Kiamal Solar Farm

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Clean Energy Finance Corporation passes $1 billion-mark for investments in Australia’s large-scale solar sector, after taking a $51m stake in Victoria’s largest PV farm.

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The Clean Energy Finance Corporation says it has passed the $1 billion-mark for investments in Australia’s large-scale solar sector, after taking a $51 million stake in Victoria’s largest PV farm.

The CEFC confirmed on Tuesday that it had taken a minority stake in the 200MW Kiamal solar farm that is under construction by Paris-based Total Eren near Ouyen, in the state’s north-west.

It said the investment extended the green bank’s recent push into equity investments in large scale renewable, rather than loan finance, adding to previous investments in Queensland’s Ross River Solar Farm and Tasmania’s Granville Harbour Wind Farm.

It also follows last week’s wind energy milestone for the CEFC, when its finance for Ratch-Australia’s 227MW Collector Wind Farm notched up more than 2GW of wind farms (just under $1 billion in wind energy investment) since its formation under the Gillard government.

As Giles Parkinson reported here last week – when the project reached financial close – the Kiamal Solar Farm has been ground-breaking for a number of reasons, the latest being new plans to add a huge 270MW/1,080MWh battery storage system.

It is also the first project of its kind – although it will ultimately be of one many – that has been required to install a “synchronous condenser” to ease grid connection challenges in Victoria’s so-called “rhombus of regret.”

Total Eren is also working with TransGrid to deliver a new 220 kV Kiamal Terminal Station and Collector Substation, with the two 180MVA transformers designed and manufactured locally by Wilsons Transformers in Victoria.

It seems this has been the reason that the CEFC has become involved, to ensure that the project went ahead. The CEFC did not say what percentage stake of the project it would obtain through the $51 million investment.

The $1 billion milestone for solar investment and financing comes less than two weeks after the CEFC reached the $2 billion milestone for wind finance and investment through the recent funding of the Collector wind farm in NSW.

“This exciting project will contribute to a stronger and more reliable grid, able to accommodate an increasing share of low emissions solar energy in the future,” said CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth in comments on Tuesday.

“While Australia’s world leading potential in solar energy is well known, the reality is that we require considerable new investment to take advantage of this low cost and low emissions energy resource.

“The CEFC continues to play a central role in working alongside exciting new investors such as Total Eren as a way of increasing the flow of capital into our clean energy transition.

“We’re also seeing new opportunities for the CEFC to invest in projects as an equity partner, allowing us to diversify our own investment portfolio for the longer term.”

Kiamal is also notable for the number of corporate power off-take agreements it has secured, including with Mars Australia and energy retailers Alinta Energy and Flow Power.

It will also supply energy to Zero Emissions Water, a new entity representing 13 Victorian water corporations, and deliver large-scale generation certificates for retailer Origin Energy.

Should plans for a 213MW second stage of the project go ahead, Kiamal is also believed to have landed a major off-take agreement with Snowy Hydro – making it one of the eight projects that formed part of that company’s boast that it had secured “firm” wind and solar for well below the current price of wholesale power in Australia.

“The CEFC is pleased to support the innovative approach to offtake contracting reflected in the Kiamal project,” added the CEFC’s Learmonth.

“The use of multiple power purchase agreements demonstrates the potential for a diverse group of customers to hedge their energy costs while supporting the development of new large-scale renewable energy projects.

“We are confident this is a model that can be embraced by more manufacturers, commercial enterprises and government agencies as they explore ways to further control energy costs as well as lower their emissions.”

Kiamal is expected to reach commercial operation later in 2019, made up of more than 718,000 PV panels with single-axis trackers covering some 500 hectares of land.

It is expected to produce enough electricity to meet the needs of more than 133,500 homes and displace more than 610,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

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