One of Australia’s largest solar farms inks PPA with coal generator

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The 275MW Darlington Point Solar Farm will begin construction “shortly” after reaching financial close and sealing a power off-take deal with Trevor St Baker’s Delta Electricity.

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One of Australia’s largest solar projects, the 275MW Darlington Point Solar Farm, has reached financial close and sealed a power off take deal, putting construction on track to begin shortly near Griffith in New South Wales.

Developer Edify Energy said on Monday that it had worked with European solar investor Octopus Investments to arrange more than $450 million to finance the project, which should be – albeit for a short time only – Australia’s largest solar farm.

In a statement published on the company’s website, Edify said that it was retaining an equity stake in the project, and would work with Octopus through construction – a joint effort of Signal Energy Australia and Canadian Solar. Commonwealth Bank and Westpac are jointly providing debt to the project.

The power purchase agreement is with Delta Electricity – the previously state-owned coal generation company that was snapped up for a song by the not-always renewables friendly coal baron, Trevor St Baker.

Edify Energy said the deal with Delta showed that solar could work together with coal as renewables took a growing share of the NSW and Australian electricity markets.

The rest of solar farm’s generation output is expected to be contracted out separately.

“We look forward to working with other consumers of green electricity with respect to contracting the balance of the solar farm,” said Edify Energy CEO John Cole in a statement.

The $407 million Darlington project got the green light from the state government just last month – including approval for a 100MWh battery storage system – marking the 49th such project to make it into the state’s development pipeline.

It will be sited on grazing land adjacent to TransGrid’s Darlington Point substation at Donald Ross Drive, and once operational will generate 685,000MWh of renewable energy each year – enough to power around 115,000 homes. Generation is expected to start in early 2020.

As noted above, it will rank as one of the biggest solar farms in Australia once commissioned – although not for long, with much larger examples, including Reach Solar Energy’s recently approved 900MW Yarabee Solar Farm – also in NSW – on track to be completed by 2022.

For Octopus Investments, Darlington Point marks the European company’s first deal since entering the Australian market last year.

Managing director Sam Reynolds said the project exemplified the firm’s investment strategy and was a good fit in Octopus’ global portfolio of renewable energy assets.

“Projects need to stack up economically, not just environmentally, for our investors,” he said on Monday.

“Darlington Point ticked the right boxes for us – there’s excellent solar resources in the region, plus it’s right next door to a major existing transmission substation and the site has development approval to accommodate batteries in the future.

“Bringing projects like this to life shows how the solar industry has come of age in Australia as a mainstream choice for investors, retailers and consumers of energy.”

NSW Minister for Energy, Don Harwin, who has had a busy time of it lately, said the project’s financial close was great news for the state.

“In NSW we are heading to a cleaner energy future and this project represents yet another significant increase in our energy capacity while contributing to lower emissions.

“We now have a $26 billion pipeline of renewable energy projects in NSW and huge interest in further investment across solar, wind and pumped hydro projects,” Harwin said.

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