Signs that large-scale solar projects could come to dominate new renewable energy development in Australia – and that Queensland could lead the charge – continue to emerge, with yet another developer revealing a project pipeline of 500MW planned for the Sunshine State.
Australian company ESCO Pacific says it is nearing construction of a 135MW solar farm in Queensland’s Ross River area, and has three other projects in the works – all larger than 100MW and all plugging into various parts of the Queensland electricity network.
This puts the company well on track to meet its previously stated goal of building 1GW of grid-connected projects around the country, towards which it secured more than $A4 million of seed capital in a fund-raising round in December 2015, led by London-based clean energy finance firm Lennox Partners.
And this week, former Infratil Energy Australia CEO Darryl Flukes was announced as the company’s new chairman, whose extensive energy market experience is expected to boost ESCO’s efforts at building its project profile in Australian.
“This is a significant appointment for the company and comes at an important time for ESCO Pacific as it continues to build its profile within the Australian energy market,” ESCO managing director Steve Rademaker said in a statement.
“Our leading 135MW solar farm development at Ross River in Queensland is rapidly approaching a ready to build status and Darryl’s sector experience will be instrumental in maximising value for shareholders.”
Rademaker said ESCO was currently working to secure development consent for Ross River, which the company expected to secure by Q3 2016. It is also working with retailers to secure a power purchase agreement for the 135MW solar farm.
Rademaker would not say which companies ESCO was negotiating with, but confirmed there were a number of parties interested.
“We’re seeing a marked improvement in the market for PPA’s for large-scale solar,” he told RenewEconomy in an interview on Monday.
“Interest is much stronger.”
“A large part of that is (due) to the fact that solar is now becoming cost competitive with wind,” Rademaker added, noting that retailers were also starting to secure their large-scale RECs, to meet their regulatory obligations.
“What we’re seeing is a jostling of position (of energy market incumbents),” he said.
Rademaker says ESCO will begin submitting applications for development approval for the further 300-400MW of pipeline projects within three to four weeks.