First Solar, AGL team up down under on 155 MW utility-scale projects


First Solar and AGL Energy Limited are partnering on two utility-scale photovoltaic projects in Australia.

AGL, one of Australia's leading integrated renewable energy companies, engaged First Solar to construct a 102 MW plant at Nyngan and a 53 MW project at Broken Hill — both located in New South Wales.

The projects have secured $166.7 million of Commonwealth Government funding through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) as well as an additional $64.9 million in funding from the NSW Government. The total project cost is approximately $450 million.

First Solar has executed engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts to supply the projects with its advanced thin-film photovoltaic modules and provide EPC services. The company will also provide maintenance support for a period of five years once the solar farms are operational.

The Nyngan and Broken Hill solar projects will be among Australia's largest utility-scale solar plants.

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Jack Curtis, First Solar's vice president of Business Development for Asia Pacific, said the planned projects would “demonstrate that utility-scale solar is a proven, bankable source of power generation in Australia today. These projects will play an important part in the growing acceptance of utility-scale solar PV, and we applaud the Commonwealth Government and the NSW Government for their vision and commitment to the sector."

Construction of the Nyngan project is expected to begin in January, with commercial operation likely by mid-2015. The Broken Hill project will start construction approximately six months later, in July 2014, and is scheduled to reach commercial operation before the end of 2015.

On completion, the projects are expected to produce approximately 360 gigawatt hours of electricity each year, which will be sufficient to meet the needs of more than 50,000 average homes in New South Wales.

AGL and First Solar said they expect the solar plants to provide significant value to regional New South Wales, adding nearly 2% to the gross regional product of each community. First Solar is actively engaged with local companies looking to become involved in the projects, with more than 100 local contractors attending recent subcontractor forums. The projects will create approximately 300 construction jobs in Nyngan and approximately 150 in Broken Hill.

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