Risen Energy buys 120MW solar project near Toowoomba

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A 121MW solar project approved for construction west of Toowoomba, in Queensland, is expected to be completed by the end of the year, after being bought by the Australian arm of China-based renewables company, Risen Energy.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Risen said it had bought 100 per cent of the Yarranlea Solar Farm, an existing project which had been under development by a company of the same name, Yarranlea Solar.

Risen have been boosting their presence in Australia since mid-2016, when the company announced its plans to co-invest in capital projects, provide access to its EPC division, and offer a diversified range of products suited to large scale solar PV installations.

On Yarranlea – which was approved for development in 2016, but has since encountered a number of technical and regulatory hurdles – Risen said they would take the solar farm from engineering design to construction and commissioning, and then own and operate the project.

Once completed, sometime near the end of 2018, Risen said the Yarranlea Solar Farm was expected to generate roughly 264GWh a year, which it would export to the NEM via an existing nearby substation.

John Zhong, Risen’s director of project development and investment said the company would do all this on a merchant basis, without a PPA, thanks to the competitive nature of Australia’s energy prices.

“Due to wholesale electricity markets, Risen Energy will fund 100 per cent of the Yarranlea Solar Farm project without finance,” Zhong said in comments on Wednesday.

“No PPA is attached to the Yarranlea Solar Farm project so we decided to go ahead with merchant to capture the NEM spot price.”

But, as noted above, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the Yarranlea project, with the previous owners taking the Toowoomba Regional Council to court over its approval of a separate solar project on land right next door to Yarranlea.

According to reports, Yarranlea Solar director Nick Canto was opposing the proposed Maryrorough Solar project, arguing would place additional load on existing grid infrastructure, and ”adversely affect the function of the service having regard to the capacity which will be utilised by other approved energy facilities”.

That case has since been settled, and the project’s former owners have secured a connection offer with local network operator Ergon Energy, as well approval from the Australian Electricity Market Operator in late December.

According to a report in the Toowoomba Chronicle, Yarranlea Solar’s contract with Ergon included a commitment to pay local network augmentation costs in excess of $10 million and ongoing network charges of around $6 million over the life of the project.

In a statement this week, Canto said Risen had been a party to a lot of the negotiations, and the “regulatory” difficulties the project has had to overcome.

“After an exhaustive expression of interest process from a range of local and international organisations, we quickly drew a conclusion that Risen was the right choice to take the project forward,” Canto said.

“We have had close dealings with Risen over a 12-month period, as the regulatory approval processes were finalised.

“This has reinforced our impression of their commitment to the project, community and we know they will be great custodians of the project going forward,” he said.

“There are a number of technical challenges with the generator performance standards (GPS),” Risen’s Zhong added.

“In discussion with AEMO and NSPs and supported by technical specialists, we secured the offer to connect from Ergon Energy and received approval from the Australian Energy Market Operator.

“We will continue to work with industrial specialists and consult with local council, electricity authority, regulator and local people to progress the project to the next stage to achieve the best outcome for the project and community,” he said.  

  • john

    One aspect of this situation has me intrigued Quote:
    Yarranlea Solar’s contract with Ergon included a commitment to pay local network augmentation costs in excess of $10 million and ongoing network charges of around $6 million over the life of the project.
    End of quote.
    How on earth do they have to pay $6 million over the life time of the project?
    Is that maintenance of the poles and upgraded wires?
    One would expect that a simple insurance policy against failure of the infrastructure would not be $6 million dollars !!!
    Does it cost lets say $60 million over 10 years yes that would be $6 million.
    They already have to pay $10 million up front for the infrastructure upgrade.

    To me these figures seems a bit strange frankly.

    I am fairly confident that the solar farm was built adjacent to a major transmission line so why the huge cost encumbrance?

    Yes i know lots of questions.