CEFC backs three large-scale solar projects in NSW

Three solar projects in NSW are set to begin construction within weeks after being approved for Clean Energy Finance Corporation funding worth $150 million.

The plants in Parkes, Griffith and Dubbo will consist of more than 400,000 panels, and are the first projects to receive debt finance under the CEFC’s large-scale solar financing program.

The projects will generate enough energy to power 41,500 homes per year.

Developed by Neoen, the projects are expected to create 250 jobs during construction.

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 the company’s goal of owning and operating 1GW 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.

The plants make up a quarter of the projects funded under ARENA’s Large-Scale Solar Competitive Round.

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.”

As well as the $150m in funding from the CEFC, the Neoen projects are will also receive $16 million in funding through ARENA.

Mr Frischknecht 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,” he said.

“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 has signed commercial power purchase agreements 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 presence offtake of the 46MW Canunda windfarm and representing another large energy player stepping into Australia’s renewable energy sector.

Construction of the plants is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.