Italian oil major taps Australian renewables, buys up NT “biggest” solar farm

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Italian oil and gas major Eni has acquires 33MW solar farm set for construction near Katherine, in the Northern Territory – the biggest for the NT so far.

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The lure of Australia’s booming large-scale renewable energy market has snared yet another big international player, in this case, Italian oil and gas major Eni, with the acquisition of a solar PV project that stands to be the largest in the Northern Territory.

In a statement on Tuesday, Eni Australia said the local subsidiary of the Milan-based company had completed the acquisition of the construction-ready 33MW solar project from Katherine Solar – a joint venture between Epuron and UK-based Island Green Power.

That project, which has been in the works for the NT for some time now, will use single axis tracking and cloud predicting technology, with provisions made for the addition of battery storage. It will connect to the existing substation adjacent to the Katherine Power Station.

As we reported here, the Katherine Solar farm also comes with a power purchase agreement, after an off take deal sealed with Terrtiory government-owned utility Jacana Energy.

The clinching of the PPA in October of last year had paved the way for construction of the $40 million solar project to go ahead “in coming months,” the developers said at the time.

This was confirmed by Eni, which said in its Tuesday statement that construction of the solar farm was expected to start in the next few weeks, with an expected commercial operation date in the fourth quarter of 2019.

For Eni – which is already active in Australia’s oil and gas market – the move into the local solar sector fits with the company’s broader shift to clean energy, including plans to install 1GW of new renewables capacity by 2021, rising to 5GW by 2025.

It will also hep deliver the Northern Territory government’s goal to source 50 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Australia-based Epuron, the project’s original developer, will continue to have an active role in managing the PV farm once it is operational, Eni said.

Eni is not the first Italian energy major to move into the Australian renewables market. Enel Group, via its renewables arm Enel Green Power, co-owns (with the Dutch Infrastructure) the 220MW Bungala Solar Farm near Port Augusta in South Australia, the second stage of which is currently under construction.

Enel has also invested €1 million ($A1.6 million) in the research and development of Carnegie Clean Energy’s CETO wave power technology, to  collaborate in its deployment “across a number of milestones.”

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