Two large-scale solar and battery storage projects proposed for development in Victoria’s Gippsland region have been underwritten by a “landmark joint venture” between Octopus Australia and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
The green investment duo announced this week that they would help to accelerate the delivery of both the 44MW Perry Bridge (44MW) and Fulham (80MW) solar farms, the former of which had already been approved for development by the state government.
Octopus Australia and the CEFC said they had purchased the rights to develop the projects from local outfit, Solis Re, which had been working together with Marathon Electrical and contracting group WK & MA Ferguson as a JV known as Repowering Gippsland.
Octopus and the CEFC said they would be working closely with Solis and Repowering Gippsland to bring the two solar and battery projects to financial close.
The Perry Bridge project, which won approval from Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning in April, proposes to combine the solar farm with a 40-50MWh battery project in the Wellington Shire.
The Fulham project, announced last month, proposes to pair the 80MW of solar with an 80MWh battery. At that time, detailed site assessments and designs were said to be underway, ahead of community consultation and then the submission of a planning application to state government.
The two projects are being touted as part of a “just transition” for the region that has been at the centre of Victoria’s coal industry, particularly in light of the announcement of the early retirement of the Yallourn coal fired power station by its owner, EnergyAustralia.
Repowering Gippsland has also joined forces with a number of other local organisations to launch the Australian Renewables Academy, which aims to establish a skilled workforce to support the shift to renewables in the region.
EnergyAustralia has proposed construction of a massive big battery in the place of Yallourn in the Latrobe Valley, but Octopus Australia’s managing director Sam Reynolds says the Perry Bridge and Fulham solar farms would be the first to built at scale in the region, leading its transformation into a “green energy powerhouse.”
“Gippsland has its roots in the electricity industry, and these projects help the region continue that journey,” Reynolds said, adding that the CEFC’s vast experience in Australia’s renewable energy would be critical in the development of the two solar and battery projects.
The deal marks a move back into big solar by the CEFC, whose investment mandate has more recently seen it focus on less mature renewable energy and supporting technologies, such as big batteries and green hydrogen.
“Investment in new, clean generation, storage, transmission and infrastructure is critical to support the security and reliability of Australia’s energy grid,” said the CEFC’s executive director, Monique Miller.
“We are delighted to be further extending our investments in Victoria’s renewable energy sector with these exciting developments in the Gippsland region.”
For Octopus Australia – a subsidiary of one of the world’s largest investors in clean energy, the Octopus Group – the solar and battery farms add to the company’s growing portfolio, since starting up in Australia in 2018, including the massive 333MW Darlington Point solar farm in NSW.
“We are so grateful for the support from the local community, including land owners, council, community groups and the business sector. They have a vision for their region and we are excited to work alongside them to turn it into reality,” added Octopus Australia’s head of investment and development, Dennis Freedman.