Collinsville solar project reaches financial close

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Construction of the $100 million Collinsville Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Project could start within weeks after reaching financial close, project developer Ratch Australia Corporation announced today.

The 42.5MW project, located in central Queensland, is expected to be operational by June 2018 and produce enough energy to meet the needs of almost 15,000 homes.

The solar farm will feature around 180,000 solar photovoltaic panels and is in close proximity to the old Collinsville coal-fired power station to take advantage of existing electrical infrastructure including substations and Ergon Energy’s distribution network.

Ratch executive general manager business development Anthony Yeates confirmed that with funding arrangements now in place the company could break ground on the solar farm before the end of May.

“We have been working on redevelopment options for the site for a long time and it is really exciting to see it all come together,” Mr Yeates said.

“This significant milestone means we can now get on with construction of this project and if all goes to plan it will be generating electricity within roughly 12 months from now.”

Mr Yeates said financial close was the culmination of a series of major milestones which included signing of the long-term grid connection agreement with Ergon Energy to have the project connected to the national electricity grid.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) committed $60 million to the project, while the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) provided a $9.5 million grant.

Financial Close follows Alinta Energy’s decision in March to purchase electricity and Large-scale Generation Certificates (LGCs) generated by the farm through to the end of 2030.

“It is really satisfying to get this project underway after such a long development process,” Mr Yeates said.

“We first started looking at solar power options for the site back in 2010 under the old Solar Flagships program.

“After considering lots of alternatives, we will be building a large array of solar PV panels that will generate electricity in essentially the exact same manner as the solar panels that are installed on house rooftops.

“CEFC and ARENA are very focused on helping projects like ours proceed and we have certainly benefited from their experience with similar projects.”

The project received approval from the Whitsunday Regional Council in 2013 and ARENA has recognised the project as being high merit.

The project marks the tenth project to be supported by the CEFC’s Large-Scale Solar Program, bringing total program investment commitments to moe than $370m.

The CEFC said the project presented a compelling case for support.

“We are particularly excited about the potential for this project to showcase how old power station sites can be repurposed as new renewable energy bases, benefiting from existing infrastructure, while helping to transform Australia’s energy mix,” said CEFC Large-Scale Solar Program lead Gloria Chan.

The project would have a peak construction workforce of around 120 and employ two permanent staff once complete, as well as up to 20 staff to clean the solar panels as required.

Ratch owns and operates several renewable energy projects in Australia and is currently developing the 180MW Mount Emerald Wind Farm near Mareeba, which is due for completion in September next year.