CleanCo signs up to new 180MW Queensland wind project as Octopus extends reach

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The Queensland government owned utility CleanCo has signed a long term off-take agreement with a new 180MW wind project in the state, helping it become one of the very few large scale wind or solar projects to land finance in Australia so far this year.

The 180MW Dulacca wind farm, located about 350kms north-west of Brisbane, has been developed by RES Australia and will be located across six different grazing and cropping properties between Miles and Roma, and near the Columboola solar farm currently under construction.

Under the deal, CleanCo has committed take 70 per cent, or 126MW, of the power produced by Dulacca.

The wind farm has been sold by RES to the UK-based Octopus, which is in the midst of a major Australian expansion program, including the new 330MW Darlington Point solar farm in NSW, two solar and battery storage projects in Victoria backed by the CEFC, and more to come.

“These type of projects – with a quality team like RES, Vestas (the turbine supplier) and a government PPA (power purchase agreement) are few and far between,” Sam Reynolds, the head of Octopus Australia, told RenewEconomy.

“We think that Queensland wind is a valuable proposition because of its inverse relationship to rooftop solar, and we want to have a mix of wind, solar and storage. That’s the best way to play renewables in Australia.”

Reynolds says Octopus, which already has interests in more than 260 projects elsewhere in the world, is looking to invest some $5 billion in new projects in Australia in the next five years, and expects to make more announcements, including in Victoria, in coming months.

“There has been a bit of a feeding frenzy with renewables in Europe …. and now we are looking to Australia, which feels like Europe about five to six years ago, and into Asia.”

Debt financing was arranged from a banking consortium including CBA, ING, MUFG, SMBC and Westpac. Construction began last week.

RES has been working on the Dulacca project for about five years, and will maintain an interest in the project as construction manager and for ongoing maintenance and operations. The wind farm will consist of 43 Vestas 4.2MW turbines.

CEO Matt Rebbeck says it is challenging to get projects across the line at the moment, as indicated by recent Clean Energy Council data that showed the lowest levels of new financing for five years, with only one wind farm reaching financial close in the past 18 months.

“You have to have the right resource, the right community backing, and make sure you have got the project fully supported,” Rebbeck said.

“We are grateful for the support of the forward-thinking local council. We are very excited about seeing this project come to life and seeing the creation of opportunities for the local communities, including those through the creation of the ($1.5 million) community fund.”

CleanCo is playing a key role in the development of large scale renewable energy projects in the state. It has signed up the 157MW Kaban wind farm south-east of Cairns, and also has contract to take most (320MW) of the output from the planned 400MW Western Downs solar farm. Both are owned by Neoen.

CleanCo has also signed a deal to build a new 100MW Karara wind farm in the state’s south west and take the output from a further 400MW of Acciona’s 1GW MacIntyre wind project that will adjoin it.

CEO Dr Maia Schweizer said the wind energy generated by the Dulacca Renewable Energy Project would complement CleanCo’s growing portfolio of renewable energy generation.

“CleanCo’s generation portfolio enables us to offer uniquely low-emissions energy to our large commercial and industrial customers,” she said in a statement.

“Power Purchase Agreements like this one mean we can offer competitively priced energy contracts supported by renewables and our fleet of low-emissions firming generation, guaranteeing supply day and night.”

See RenewEconomy’s Large Scale Wind Farm Map of Australia for more details.

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