Australian gas firm APA signs AUS$50m solar project contract

One of the leading gas pipeline companies in Australia has this week announced its first major investment in solar power.

APA Group has signed a 12-year electricity sales contract with Synergy to the value of AUS$50 million ($37.3 million) that will finance the construction of a 20 MW solar PV plant at Emu Downs, north of Perth in Western Australia.

The solar installation will lie adjacent to APA’s 80 MW Emu Downs wind farm, and construction is scheduled to begin early in January. Since the summer, APA Group chief executive Mick McCormack has been making all the right noises about renewable energy in Australia, earmarking the potential for APA to invest more than AUS$500 million solar and wind power projects over the next three years.

The Emu Downs solar park is the first tangible commitment made by APA Group in solar energy, and is supported by AUS$5.5 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). Once completed, it will become Western Australia’s first collocated wind and solar farms.

McCormack said that the solar farm is "the type of energy infrastructure asset that APA will continue to invest in", adding: "The expansion of APA’s existing Emu Downs wind farm with the complementary solar generation makes logical and financial sense both from a power generation profile as well as sharing transmission connection infrastructure."

Synergy will build and operate the solar farm, which will share the grid transmission connection with the wind farm, which was acquired by APA in 2011 and also has electricity sales contracts with Synergy.