Australia’s CEFC backs 200 MW of large-scale Queensland solar projects

A hefty solar portfolio financing deal has been secured for two of Sydney-based developer Edify Energy’s latest large-scale projects – the 150MW Daydream Solar Farm and the 50MW Hayman Solar Farm located in northern Queensland.  A combined $90 million is coming from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), as part of a syndicated debt facility involving Commonwealth Bank and French investment bank Natixis. In addition, BlackRock Real Assets, on behalf of its clients, is providing equity towards the projects.

In the vicinity of the two solar farms, which are about to break ground and set to be fully operational in 2018, are two more solar projects already under construction – the 57.5MW Whitsunday Solar Farm and the 57.5MW Hamilton Solar Farm. Not too far away, at the site of the Collinsville power station, is another 42 MW solar farm developed by RATCH-Australia Corporation. All five solar projects are financially underpinned by the CEFC.

The finance is part of the CEFC’s broader investment in both large and small-scale solar, which now involves commitments of more than $900 million for projects and programs valued at around $2.7 billion.

CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said the continued growth in large-scale solar projects in high insolation areas like north Queensland made enormous sense as part of the Australian economy’s transition to net zero emissions by the second half of the century.

“We are looking to finance projects that enhance grid stability while developing new renewable energy generators. These two new projects have the ability to integrate future storage solutions, increasing the clean energy benefits to the grid,” Mr Learmonth said, adding that the solar projects also reflect the CEFC’s focus on delivering clean energy solutions in the Great Barrier Reef catchment area as part of its Reef Funding Program.

Earlier this week, Edify Energy inked a 12-year power purchase agreement with Origin Energy for 100 % of the output from the Daydream solar farm.

Meanwhile, energy generated by the Hayman solar farm will be sold into the grid on a merchant basis.

“This transaction marks a significant turning point for large-scale solar financing in Australia,” said CEFC Solar Lead Gloria Chan, adding that all parties were comfortable with providing long-term finance that extends past the period covered by the contracted offtake agreement.

According to Chan, this shows a growing understanding of the investment opportunity available through largescale solar, and further demonstrates that it is now possible to develop commercially viable large-scale solar projects without grant funding.

In a separate statement, RCR Tomlinson announced that it had been awarded two contracts, totaling approximately $ 315 million for EPC and O&M for the 150 MW Daydream Solar Farm and the 50 MW Hayman Solar Farm, developed and maintained by Edify Energy Pty Ltd. Once commissioned, RCR will provide O&M services for both farms for an initial period of 10 years, with an option for a further five year term.

Earlier this year, the CEFC committed a total of $77 million to three other Edify Energy projects – the Whitsunday and Hamilton solar farms, and the 50 MW Gannawarra Solar Farm in Victoria. Moreover, the green lender provided a total of $60 million to the RATCH-Australia Corporation solar farm at the idled Collinsville Power station site.