Three big solar projects in NSW supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) are set to begin construction within weeks after getting the financial green light. The plants in Parkes, Griffith and Dubbo will consist of more than 400,000 panels and when completed will provide enough renewable energy to power 41,500 homes per year. Developed by renewable energy company Neoen, the plants make up a quarter of the projects funded under ARENA’s ground breaking Large-Scale Solar Competitive Round, which has unlocked a billion dollars of renewable energy investment across the nation. ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said ARENA was accelerating the shift to an affordable and secure renewable energy future for Australia by rapidly bringing down costs and leveraging private sector investment.
“This competitive round has driven costs down and investment up,” said Mr Frischknecht. “The plants will cost around $2 per watt of capacity, one third cheaper than AGL’s plants in Nyngan and Broken Hill, which cost $2.8 per watt in 2014 and were competitive at the time.” The Neoen projects are collectively receiving $16 million in funding through ARENA and $150 million in debt financing from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). Mr Frischknecht said that by supporting innovators and early-movers, ARENA was fast-tracking the development of new Australian industries like the large-scale solar sector. “The Australian large-scale solar sector is now on the cusp of being fully commercial, largely due to support from ARENA and the CEFC,” he said.
He said Neoen’s solar plants were world-class, featuring cutting edge technology such as panels that follow the sun as it travels across the sky. “By using solar panels that track the sun, the plants will maintain a higher energy output for more of the day.” “The new Neoen plants will also boost regional NSW economies, creating an estimated 250 jobs during construction, mostly in the local regions. “Five NSW based plants have won support through ARENA’s funding round and will together almost double the amount of big solar in the state.” Neoen Australia Managing Director Franck Woitiez said the achievement of financial close for the three large-scale solar farms in NSW was another step towards Neoen’s goal of owning and operating 1 GW of assets in Australia. “With long-term debt from the CEFC, and the support from ARENA, Neoen continues to invest in the future of the Australian energy mix, and delivers on its promises of building sustainable, competitive and renewable electricity,” Mr Woitiez said.
Neoen has signed commercial power purchase agreements (PPA) with energy retailer ENGIE to sell energy from Griffith and Parkes, with the Dubbo project progressing on a merchant basis. This is the first large-scale solar PPA signed by ENGIE in Australia, adding to its existing renewable energy offtake of the 46MW Canunda windfarm and representing another large energy player ramping up its involvement in Australia’s renewable energy sector. Construction of the plants is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.