Foresight has added a 25 MW solar project in a remote part of Queensland from Spanish developer Elecnor for AU$33.4 million (US$25.6 million). The PV power plant is the first in Australia that Foresight will manage, adding to its €1.2 billion (US$1.28 billion) portfolio of utility scale solar in the UK, Southern Europe, and North America. It said it is seeing “significant growth opportunities” in waste-to-energy and solar projects in Australia.
The Barcaldine Remote Community Solar Farm began full generation in January, two months ahead of schedule. It was supported by two government renewables agencies in the form of a AU$22.8 million (US$17.5 million) grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and AU$20 million (US$15.3 million) in debt finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).
Foresight has brought in KDB Infrastructure Investments Asset Management (KIAMCO) and Hanwha Energy as equity partners for the Barcaldine acquisition.
“The project will be meaningful not only for the local community’s energy generation but also as one of the early utility scale solar facilities being constructed in Australia,” said Gary Sofarelli, a director at Foresight Group.
“The acquisition has evidenced Foresight’s ability to apply its extensive solar expertise to the growing Australian market alongside the investors, with whom we look forward to delivering a strong pipeline of future energy projects both in Australia and around the world.”
The Barcaldine solar project is located on the “fringe of grid,” in an interior part of the state of Queensland. ARENA notes that communities in the region often suffer from unstable electricity supply resulting from network constraints, load management challenges, and voltage and frequency control issues.
ARENA will study the network impacts of the project regarding providing voltage control and network support during periods of peak demand at the Barcaldine site. The region is expected to experience an increase in electricity demand, and the renewable body will also investigate whether the solar project can assist in alleviating the need to electricity network expansions.
The CEFC’s large scale solar lead Gloria Chan noted that the project demonstrates the “increasing commercial maturity” of large scale solar in Australia.
“We were delighted to see this project reach first energy generation in December, within just a year of our financing commitment,” said Chan. “The fringe-of-grid location of the development has provided important learnings for other off-grid remote area solar PV projects.”
Sustainable Energy Research Analytics (SERA) expects more than 1 GW of large scale solar to reach final close in Australia this year. It forecasts investments into the market segment to increase from AU$1.3 billion in 2017 to more than AU$2 billion in 2018.